New Summer Essentials: How Consumers Are Preparing For Warmer Months Ahead | Coronavirus Series
Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series that explores the impact the coronavirus crisis is having on the world of ecommerce. Explore daily insights surrounding the coronavirus crisis or check out these additional resources to help you navigate your marketing strategy during this time.
Consumers are calling in rosé for curbside pickup. Face mask tan lines are now something people have to worry about. There’s some saving grace in the form of restaurant patios reopening.
Summer isn’t canceled. But it looks a lot different during a pandemic.
While restrictions are beginning to ease in some states and countries, we’re still a ways away from going back to life as it was before coronavirus. As a result, most consumers plan to continue shopping mostly online in the coming months—but they’re not buying the same products they have been in recent months.
At the onset of the crisis, consumers were spending on new essentials to help them adjust to working from home, staying inside, and maintaining a routine.
Products like home office equipment, leisure apparel, and cosmetics were seeing large sales spikes—and the brands that quickly pivoted to meet this demand earned unique opportunities to grow their businesses.
Now, though, consumers are readjusting their needs as they prepare for the summer months ahead, which means the definition of “essential” is changing once again.
Here’s a look at what consumers are buying now, what they’re planning to buy, and how direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands can prepare.
Continuing the theory of Maslow’s Hierarchy in ecommerce
Previously, Jake Cohen, head of product marketing at Klaviyo, discussed the term “new essentials” according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and how, after having basic physiological and safety needs fulfilled, consumers were making their way up the pyramid, meeting psychological needs of belongingness and esteem.
At the onset of the virus, data reflected this idea by showing what categories and products that people were buying: skincare and cosmetics products catered to self-care, health and fitness items helped people stick with their workout routines, even increases in pet supply purchases signaled more people were adopting or fostering furry friends to keep them company.
And while consumers were buying some products that would fit into the top tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy—self-actualization and self-fulfillment—the lower tiers were prioritized as people adjusted to spending the majority of their time at home and practicing social distancing. Simply put, people sought out new essentials to comfort them amid this new way of life.
But now that summer is coming, restrictions are easing, and businesses are reopening, essentials are shifting again—now consumers are looking for new ways to enjoy the summer in small groups.
More than ever, data shows an uplift in sporting goods, toys and hobbies, and a few standout outdoor home goods and kitchen accessories. Meanwhile, many products are selling out as brands experience an unprecedented amount of traffic coupled with continued supply chain issues and shipping delays.
So what exactly are consumers buying? Let’s take a deeper dive into some of the new summer essentials that are trending.
New summer essentials
The new summer essentials categories are following some patterns of years past but with notable spikes in certain products.
For example, sporting goods, such as bikes and basketballs, are trending upwards to the point that consumers are noticing that many of these recreational outdoor activities are sold out across online stores.
Most notably, rollerblades are seeing a significant increase in sales compared to the year prior. By most notably, I mean that recently I tried to buy a pair online and couldn’t find a single women’s size eight for two weeks.
Consumers are fatigued from the amount of time they’ve spent online. As they look for new ways to entertain themselves and stay active, they’re moving away from their screens and other indoor activities in favor of spending their free time outdoors.
Parents are also planning ahead for canceled summer camps this year. While it’s still unknown whether summer camps will be postponed or if they’ll continue as scheduled, parents are (understandably) wary of sending their kids away amid a pandemic.
In response, they’re outfitting their backyards with trampolines and inflatable pools to keep their children busy in case they can’t send them off to a cabin in the woods. Additionally, other products under the toys and hobbies category, including paint and puzzles, are seeing surges, as well, as parents seek to distract their children with games and crafts.
Consumers’ desire for Vitamin D is also reflected in the beauty and cosmetics space, as sunscreen sales are seeing significantly higher sales than the previous year.
Whereas consumers may have taken time to enjoy their AC after work in bars or movie theaters in summers past, this year they’re taking every opportunity possible to get out of the houses that they’ve spent so much time quarantining in, which means strong SPF will be a priority.
Additionally, as states are allowing more social-distanced gatherings, consumers are taking it as an opportunity to host small groups of friends and family in their yards. Between fire pits, pizza ovens, cornhole sets, and barbecue supplies, people are scooping up everything they need to celebrate Pride Month, prepare for Fourth of July festivities, replace canceled vacations, or make a quarantine birthday extra-special.
Does your ecommerce brand sell new summer essentials? Here’s how you can prepare
If your brand sells new summer essentials, here are a few key strategies you can follow to create great customer experiences, acquire new customers while demand is high, and encourage repeat business:
- Address low inventory – Chances are some of your most popular products aren’t just in high-demand, they’re also often out-of-stock. If you’re still battling supply chain issues, create a back-in-stock campaign to keep your customers informed of inventory updates.
- Communicate shipping delays – Similarly, many DTC brands are still navigating slow or delayed shipping, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be transparent with your customers about shipping delays through your owned marketing channels.
- Share reopening plans – Offer in-person shopping options if you’re in the position to do so. Even if you aren’t able to offer a full in-store experience, services like curbside pickup are an added convenience to customers who might not want to wait for items in the mail.
- Maintain an empathetic tone – Consumers are still in the middle of a pandemic, which means it’s not time to go back to your typical marketing just yet. Continue to strike a tone of empathy and understanding with your customers’ current situations.
- Stay agile – Coronavirus isn’t over, but your content should look different for phased reopenings and summertime than it did during the initial onset. Return to your content calendar regularly to revisit whether your messaging is still timely and relevant.
- Develop a retention strategy – Your current (and newcoming) customers are your most valuable assets. Create a retention strategy using digital content to keep them engaged for the long-haul, not just while your products are high in demand.
- Invest in paid advertising – Considering return on advertising spend (ROAS) is trending much higher than normal, it’s a great time to invest in social media placements to generate demand as well as search-engine marketing to capture it.
- Optimize your owned channels – In order to make the most of the new traffic you’re seeing, there are a few marketing basics you should first optimize on your owned channels such as email, SMS, and your website.
What are some future predictions and trends ecommerce brands will continue to see?
What ecommerce trends can you expect to see in the months to come? And what can DTC brands that don’t sell essentials or new summer essentials do to outlast the pandemic?
One opportunity that might be interesting to keep on your radar is a subscription business model—where consumers were first using subscriptions to ensure accessibility to essentials like toilet paper, it’s possible that the same concept will be sought out by consumers who want to consistently receive products that bring them joy.
With the world being so chaotic, receiving regular deliveries from brands that simply make people happy has been a form of self-care for many.
We’ve seen this demonstrated in Framed! By Sarah, a monthly subscription box of monogrammed t-shirts, accessories, and other personalized products. Framed! By Sarah’s sales have been up 140 percent since the onset of the coronavirus with April being the first six-figure in the history of her business.
“There’s nothing that I sell that anybody needs—not one thing. It’s all purely a want. I don’t sell food. I don’t sell gas. I don’t sell cleaning supplies,” said Sarah Williams, founder of Framed! By Sarah.
“For people to spend money with me during this time made me really recognize how much people needed something for themselves—they need something to gift to themselves and something to feel good about themselves. They want something to come in the mail to them, so I just kept giving them more of that,” Sarah added.
For businesses that don’t sell essentials or new essentials, it might be worth experimenting with a subscription box business model to improve retention rates with your current customers and position your products in a new way.
Additionally, as more businesses and other public places reopen, we might start to see a reset of Maslow’s Hierarchy, which would take consumers back to focusing on the psychological needs of belongingness and esteem.
Where apparel brands (excluding leisurewear and athletic apparel) have been struggling in the past few months, consumers are going to want to wear new clothes as they meet up with friends in more public settings, which could affect a newfound surge of sales in this space if reopening continues as planned.
In fact, in a survey of consumers about their spending plan, almost half of respondents say they plan to buy apparel and accessories in the next month.
Additionally, while the health and beauty category has seen strong growth with specific products like eyeshadow, less popular products could re-emerge soon.
Christina Dedrick, senior data scientist at Klaviyo, theorized in a recent podcast episode that health and beauty demand might be attributed to one important detail—only certain features show when people wear a mask. Maybe once restrictions ease further and consumers are no longer required to wear masks, lipstick, for example, will simultaneously see a lift in sales.
Jewelry, which hasn’t seen significant sales comparatively to other categories since the onset of the coronavirus, may see an increase for the same reason—re-entering society and social situations for the first time in months means people will want to look their best.
Even the travel category, which has largely suffered due to the impact of coronavirus, could see some uplift as consumers start making plans for road trips or short stays in nearby towns as lodging becomes available again. For other travelers, the easing restrictions might inspire them to start planning for larger, post-pandemic trips.
While certain products or categories may not be in demand right now, DTC brands should map themselves to Maslow’s Hierarchy and think about how they fit into the two possible upcoming scenarios, accordingly: society returning to pre-coronavirus functionality in phases or society preparing for a second wave of coronavirus.
Keep in mind that a second wave of coronavirus would look different than the first wave. Office supplies, for example, had seen a significant increase this year as people outfitted their home offices. But since many consumers have now been working from home for months, it’s unlikely that this category would see another spike to the same degree that toilet paper might, for example.
While it’s difficult to know which scenario to plan for, it’s important to be prepared for either possibility and develop a marketing strategy that you could easily pivot to meet either situation.
Why staying agile in uncertain times is critical
Brands that sell new summer essentials and cater to consumers’ aspirational summer plans have a leg up right now as people prepare for warmer weather and look forward to phased reopenings in their states and countries.
This also means if your brand falls under these categories, you need to move quickly to make sure that you’re focusing on customer acquisition while your products are hot.
But even if your brand sells new summer essentials, it’s not a guaranteed recipe for growth. And vice versa, just because you aren’t seeing sales skyrocket right now doesn’t mean things won’t change in the weeks or months to come.
What’s important is to stay agile—what works now won’t necessarily work next week or even tomorrow. One critical lesson that ecommerce entrepreneurs and marketers learned when the pandemic hit earlier this year was that you should constantly be reassessing your marketing strategy, adjusting your content calendar, and tracking the latest data on consumer insights in order to effectively prepare and pivot your business as needed.
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