Summer Signs – what can we expect from consumers and what does it mean for advertising?

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Our guest blogger is Richard Colwell, CEO, Red C Research looking ahead to Summer 2021 and beyond!

As we move into summer months a much more positive vista in unfolding ahead for most of us.  So what can we expect from consumers, and what does it mean for advertising?  We regularly conduct published consumer sentiment tracking, public opinion polling and behavioural trend surveys for a range of clients.  In these we have seen some trends likely to impact on how brands should think about communication in the coming months.

  1. Increased confidence in the economy

There is no doubt that consumer confidence is on the rise.  Confidence hit the lowest levels seen towards the end of last year when there was no end in sight for the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic. The development and rollout of vaccine and a return to some form of normality is having an impact on likely consumer spending.  

You couldn’t get a more V shaped looking recovery in consumer confidence, with over half of all adults now thinking the Irish economy will improve or stay the same, and 37% suggest they believe it will get better.  That is well above levels seen before the pandemic began, and at levels last seen in 2018.

The resulting predicted splurge in spending is also captured in our latest consumer confidence data, with dramatically higher levels of the public suggesting they will be spending more in the next 6 months on entertainment, holidays, consumer goods and home/garden improvements.  Over half (56%) say they will be spending more on entertainment and almost half (46%) on holidays, double the levels seen in tracking since 2012.  

2. Large savings available 

This makes sense, as we know from our polling conducted in conjunction with The Journal that during the past year consumer discretionary spending has been depressed, while normal outgoings for many have also been reduced.  Almost two thirds (62%) of all adults say they have been spending less during the pandemic, while 79% have either the same or more income.  

Of course, some are suffering more with lower income and heavier spend, and this tends be those in younger age groups.  However overall, it means the majority of consumers have more to spend that they might normally have as society begins to re-open.  

3. Move to digital behaviours will remain

History suggests that despite what people may say, they tend to return to past behaviour once global interruptions such as pandemics have abided.  So, what if anything might stick?  

Our research suggests that one area that is likely to remain is the accelerated move to digital during the pandemic.  In particular the move to online shopping.  While the number and extent of shopping online may fall back somewhat from the highs seen at the peak of the crisis, it seems that we are likely to continue to use digital to help meet our shopping needs.  

This is a combination of behavioural change and physical availability.  COVID pushed more retailers than ever to develop online stores and we bought from them.  Some will prefer to return to shops but the increased availability of online shopping means that we will also be doing this more than in the past.

4. Pent up demand for experiences

A long period of lockdown has also seen many people re-evaluate what is important to them.  Family, friends socialising all come to the fore, and we are keen to spoil ourselves by spending on things that matter.

Worthwhile “experiences” were denied during us the crisis, and that has made than even more valuable to most of the public now.  The desire to party, socialise, go to concerts and attend sporting events are very high.  But experience now matters more to everything we do.  What theatre can brands bring to their products and services to make them stand out from competitors?  

Travel of course is a key experience for many, and there certainly appears to be pent up demand to see the world again once we are allowed to do so, which is good news for our beleaguered travel industry that has suffered so much during the past 15 months.

5. Health is sacrosanct

If there is one thing a pandemic can do, is to make us all think twice about our health.  Our data suggest that increased awareness of healthy living and exercise, which was heightened during the crisis, is one that may remain an influence for long afterwards.  

You could argue that the best intentions of taking regular exercise may fall away when other pressures on our time fight for attention, but the current desire to keep healthy and fit are so great that even if they don’t stick for everyone, its likely they will for many.  

Even if our actual fitness regimes do suffer and the long walks of lockdown decline, our mindset is now much more eagerly focused on doing what is good for us than it was pre-pandemic.  

6. More important than ever to have distinctive assets/comms that stand out

From an advertising perspective acting now makes sense to try and secure some small part of the consumer boost in spending.   

That means the market is likely to be pretty crowded for the rest of the year.    Even more reason to make sure that your advertising stands out, and that you double down on distinctive brand assets, so you come to mind at the moments that matter.  

More than ever people will make easy choices using the shortcuts of mental availability, positive emotional connections, and ease of processing.