The world has experienced monumental change due to COVID-19. Health and safety measures are at play around the world and has impacted our day to day lives and therefore impacted the way consumers behave. It's important for organizations to respond to these changes in consumer needs, preferences and behaviors.

In the third and comprehensive Responding to consumer in the new reality report, KPMG professionals from around the world reflect on how businesses should respond to new consumer expectations. It also analyzes how the key consumer trends impact organizations in the Banking, Consumer & Retail, Insurance and Travel & Leisure sectors across 12 markets. This data is based on KPMG International's survey of more than 75,000 consumers from 29 May 2020 to 21 September 2020.

Our research and insights will help leaders navigate the complexities of this new reality and in particular, the long term-shift in consumer behaviors and how businesses can adapt to these changes.

Four consumer trends

Since May, our research has seen four key trends that have impacted consumers and have ultimately changed their purchasing patterns and consumptions.

1. Economic impact

With catastrophe seemingly around the corner, companies rightsizing and optimizing costs are expected to add to economic woes. Organizations must quickly understand the economic impact of COVID-19 on their customer base, to identify both risks and opportunities.

2. Erosion of trust

Trust in brands is eroding, with reputational risk especially precarious if corporate values do not meet those of customers. Companies must promote a sense of purpose, meeting the safety needs of customers and employees first, while also sharing their commitment to environmental and social policies.

3. Rise of digital

Companies should rapidly adopt digital to reduce cost to serve and meet customer demand for e-commerce. They must also manage cyber risk, simplify their product offering and consider how to ensure brand differentiation, when face-to-face brand building opportunities are reduced.

4. Home is the new hub

Companies should seek to tap into the growth of the community, the demand for localization and new 'essentials' such as homeware. They need to recognize the changing role of the home as well as flexibility on its location away from urban areas, as working from home becomes mainstream.

What should organizations focus on?

1. Know your customer

  • Know your customer and their circumstances. You need to understand the financial segments of risk and opportunity.
  • Be clear on segment messaging and what is needed to help customers protect themselves against financial uncertainty, risk, and personal safety.

2. Rethink the cost of doing business

  • Revenue and margin are under pressure; the shift online requires investment. Cost to serve needs to be reduced.
  • It is not just about cost-cutting; costs need to be removed from some areas and redeployed in others.
    Where should you place your bets?

3. Examine business models and partnerships

  • Determine how customers will interact with you in future. What is the future role of digital and ecommerce?
  • Food miles and localization are a rapidly growing concern. How should your supply chain adapt? What partnerships and alliances are required?

4. Demonstrate your purpose

  • The source of differentiation. What a company stands for over and above profit. This is critical in a digital world.
  • What is it about your brand and social and environmental purpose that means consumers and employees should buy into you and not others?