Consumers stopped buying many things since the start of the global coronavirus crisis. Malls and retailers closed down. Only certain food deliveries, banks, grocery stores, and pharmacies are open. Businessmen, entrepreneurs, and marketers are struggling to stay afloat, and they will continue to struggle even after the quarantine.
This is because of the unprecedented global crisis that we are facing. People are forced to follow a set of norms, such as social distancing and work from home, for fear of getting infected, making people struggle with day-to-day life
In fact, 70% of residents in Metro Manila are “not managing very well” the situation that we are in, according to the research report of Good Thinking, which surveyed more than 200 cross-section of residents during the period between March 24 to April 3 under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
When asked what aspects make up “not managing very well,” the respondents named financial, mobility/transport, access to basic needs, adjusting to work, lack of social interaction, and safety concerns as the top pain points.
The picture gets bleaker as we move through the ECQ. According to the same report, there’s an apparent decline in the quality of life is during week 4 of the ECQ, with 79% saying they were “not managing very well” compared to just 62% during week 3. Moreover, there’s 9% of the respondents who said they were “struggling very much” during week 4 of the ECQ compared to 0% during week 3.
The unavailability of a universal vaccine for the next 18 months and the looming global recession will just make life more difficult in the coming months, even years. That’s why businessmen, entrepreneurs, and marketers must understand the emergent and overarching need of consumers during these times, that is, the need to cope.
Psychologists define coping as a set of efforts to manage demands that could exceed one’s resources — financial, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual resources. Research on coping have identified five types of coping styles or behaviors, namely problem-focused coping, emotion-focused coping, seeking-understanding coping, seeking-help coping, and avoiding-the-problem coping.
With these coping behaviors emerge five new consumer market segments that display peculiar buying patterns, namely:
• Problem solvers: this segment actively plans, tries new things, and finds solutions to existing woes. Examples of products and services that this segment buys are everyday consumables that can be purchased conveniently in the community; they try new apps like digital banking, videoconferencing tool, or online marketplace.
• Emotional expressionists: they let their emotions out as evidenced by the copiousness of angry and complaining posts in social media; they engage in virtual meetups, and look for appeasing activities. Examples of products and services that this segment buys are virtual coaching, self-help webinars, virtual dance parties, and self-care products like essential oils and fitness products.
• Understanding seekers: they try to understand the situation that we are in and seek to learn about it; examples of products and services they buy are online courses, webinars, virtual coaching, documentaries on pandemics, and fitness and health care products.
• Help and support seekers: this segment seeks help and support from others to enable them to cope; examples of products and services they buy are virtual coaching and spiritual advisory, financial advisory and insurance, and errands services and apps.
• Problem avoiders: this segment looks for activities to forget the current problems and they act as if nothing is happening; examples of products and services they buy are hobby products such as those in gardening and fitness, liquor, comfort food, popular coffee brands, and entertainment content.
Individuals may vacillate from one segment to another because of the volatile nature of these emotional behaviors of coping. But this segmentation serves as guide for entrepreneurs and marketers to adapt their marketing communication in order to address each segment’s coping needs.
But also note that many of the products and services required now are digital or virtual in nature, may it be a virtual service, an app, or ecommerce platform. Entrepreneurs and marketers should also transform their offerings that take into account the social distancing required by consumers.
Reynaldo C. Lugtu, Jr. is CEO of Hungry Workhorse Consulting, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is the Chairman of the ICT Committee of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex). He is the Country Representative of the Institute of Change and Transformation Professionals Asia (ICTPA) and Fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be e-mailed at email@example.com