‘Reimagined’ Consumers Have New Priorities

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Price and quality, while still important, no longer overshadow other factors when customers make buying decisions, according to a new report from Accenture.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on consumer purchasing behavior, the report says. Consumers have reevaluated what is important to them and are increasingly focused on their purpose in life.

The new consumers are what Accenture calls “reimagined.”

Additionally, one third of the 25,000 consumers surveyed for the report said they have evolving values and purchase considerations. It should be noted that 17 percent of those surveyed said that the pandemic had no influence on their purchasing considerations.

“As the world reopens for business, the consumer we knew is no longer,” says Baiju Shah, Accenture Interactive’s chief strategy officer and one of the authors of the report. “Brands must reevaluate and rebuild relevance to these new buyer values and anticipate and meet the needs of their consumers in the moment. Leaders must make a critical choice to either tune in and create experiences that matter or tune out and miss the opportunity to differentiate and create sustained growth.”

In addition to price and quality, consumers are now considering health and safety, customer service and personal care, ease and convenience, product origin, and trust and reputation in their purchasing decisions, according to Accenture.

Price or quality will still likely be the primary factors in purchase decisions, according to Kevin Quiring, managing director of Accenture’s strategy practice, head of its global customer strategy practice, and co-author of the report. He recommends that companies build on one or the other and then concentrate on health and safety, trust and reputation, or ease and convenience to further differentiate the company’s products and services from competitors. By building on quality and adding another differentiating factor, a company might be able to even increase prices without loss of business.

Customers are looking at health and safety not only for themselves but also for the company’s employees, with 71 percent of those surveyed saying it is crucial that companies prioritize health considerations for both their customers and their employees in all operations. Slightly more than two-thirds said they would switch travel companies if they felt health and safety issues weren’t being adequately addressed.

Consumers also want to be more than just a number, Accenture advises. They want personalized brand experiences, not a one-size-fits-all service. As part of that, they want clear and easy options for contacting customer service and clear responses about service levels related to pandemic or socioeconomic issues. Half of those surveyed said many companies disappointed them by not providing enough support and understanding of their needs during the difficulties presented by the pandemic.

Despite a COVID-induced shift to digital channels, many companies still have channels that don’t communicate with each other, leaving customers unable to obtain the same information (i.e., order status) across all of them. Ease and convenience must be table stakes, according to Accenture.

Consumers also want options. For example, 57 percent of consumers said they would change to a competitor if a retailer didn’t offer flexible delivery options like click-and-collect and curbside pickup.

In healthcare, an increasing number of customers want the option of a virtual visit, with 51 percent saying they would abandon their current doctors if they did not offer online appointments when appropriate.

Product sourcing has also become more important, Accenture points out. Three-quarters (76 percent) of those surveyed said they prefer companies that source services and materials in highly ethical ways. Similarly, 65 percent of consumers want to conduct business with eco-friendly companies.

In the same vein, a majority of consumers indicated that they would switch providers if they did not take visible actions for a positive social impact related to issues like inclusion and diversity, environmental protection, or general health and well-being.

For example, in the travel and life insurance industries, “strong ethical values” were either the top or second-strongest motivator or loyalty driver among reimagined consumers.

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