Jody DeVere: Marketing to women in the post-COVID world
What has changed, what stays the same, and how can you improve?
We live in unusual times. Today, still in the midst of an uncertain pandemic, people tend to have either an abundance of free time, or no time at all while managing homeschooling, work, and relationships. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that consumer women are adapting their behaviors to adapt to this new normal, and that means they’re changing their buying habits, too.
Women are changing their behaviors in an effort to maintain the delicate work-life balance, and that means they are changing how they think about purchases as well as how they go about making them. That means in the auto industry, we need to be making some very proactive steps to adapt with the changing mindset of women consumers. With that in mind, here are some of our insights as to how COVID has influenced the buying habits of women, and how you can best serve them.
The Changes in Society are a Bigger Source of Stress than the Virus
First, there’s no argument – COVID-19 is serious, and it is scary. It’s claimed almost half a million lives in the US alone, and it’s not finished yet. But even as vaccines begin to roll out, no one can deny that the impact that the virus has had on everyone – even those who have stayed healthy – are the societal changes.
These changes have come with a lot of anxiety. Women are worried about their financial situation, worried about their kids, worried about their older relatives, and worried about what the world will look like when this is all over.
Economic uncertainty is top-of-mind for women consumers right now, so you should be working to address that in your communication and marketing efforts. Additionally, where there is stress, there is also perspective: while many women are scared and anxious, they are also grateful to have remained safe and healthy, and hopeful that the worries will be soon in the past. Messages of hope, while still emphasizing care and caution, will resonate well with women today.
Priorities Have Changed
Many consumers, both men and women, are experiencing financial difficulties or are anticipating financial difficulties. Additionally, the reduced availability of many items and slower shipping speeds have greatly influenced purchasing habits.
Before the pandemic, women were driven by Quality, Price, and Brand in their purchase decisions – in that order.
Today, the new priorities are Availability, Safety, Price, and Quality – in that order.
How does this apply to the automotive aftermarket and the greater auto industry? In terms of availability and safety, it means that taking every possible step to make her visit to your shop as quick, convenient, and safe as possible will play a huge role in her decision to come in.
No-contact car care with drop off and pickup, allowing customers to remain in their vehicle during routine service (where available – don’t let a customer sit in a car while it’s on the lift, obviously), text alerts, frequent sanitization, masks, a socially distant and clean waiting area, and efficient appointment scheduling and quick turnaround are all ways you can reach women in the post-COVID world. Many of you already do these things – if you do, emphasize them in your communication. If you don’t, start taking steps to implement as many of these practices as you can.
Online Shopping Has Toppled In-Store Shopping – But That Won’t Last
Since the pandemic, online shopping for everything from groceries to home electronics has almost entirely replaced walking into a brick and mortar store. Most consumers today are buying more online than they usually do, and in the auto industry we can meet those consumers where they want to be. Does your website have an easy to use appointment scheduler? If not, consider adding one, and make it slick and easy. Consider accepting mobile forms of payment like Apple Pay and Google Pay to make the checkout process more convenient. For the time being, go ahead and assume that most of your customers will want to interact with you primarily online – or not at all.
However, signs show that may not always be the case.
Consumers are split as to whether their shopping habits will return to normal after the pandemic, with a little less than half saying they would get back to normal, while the rest say they’ll probably stick to the new online shopping world. It’s difficult to predict the future right now, of course, but American consumers are certainly creatures of habit, and we don’t think brick and mortar are quite finished yet. Even still, enhancing your ability to accept and process mobile or online customers will only help you in the long run.
Brand Loyalties are Changing
While consumers are shifting the way they buy, they’re also shifting their loyalties. As you see, brand isn’t really a factor in many purchase decisions today due to availability, and that mindset bleeds over into other segments of commerce as well. This is a valuable chance for you to enhance or reimagine your brand, and to try to win some new customers. Some consumers may be looking for a shop where they can feel more safe, where they can have an easier experience, and where they can save some money – if you can convince her that’s you, you’ll reap the benefits well into the post-COVID world.
Jody DeVere, CEO of AskPatty.com, is an authority on marketing to women, as well as an automotive journalist, car-care expert and safety spokesperson for the industry. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.