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As the coronavirus crisis pushes Europe into a deeper recession than anticipated, consumer spending will be essential for economic recovery. Yet, financial uncertainty for the year ahead might make people less likely to loosen their purse-strings. 

Forrester has delved into the various ways consumer behaviours have changed in the past few months and what this means for brands in its latest report, ‘The Myth of a World After: A European Recovery Perspective.‘ 

To grasp the sentiments of consumers across Europe, Forrester surveyed 1,052 adults online between 29 April and 1 May, drawing responses from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK.

The Drum unpacks some of the reports key findings and what this means for brand marketers.

Consumers care even more about ethical brands, for now

  • 2020 will be remembered as the year that people slowed down and took stock. According to the report, consumers are even more likely to want brands to align with their social, political and ethical values coming. It found 38% of consumers are more likely to choose brands that are committed to reducing their impact on the environment, while 43% will focus on brands that prove they treat employees well. 

  • Despite this, the report suggests that when the recession fully sets in, price will trump ethics. It found 56% of Italians and 54% of Spaniards were more likely to choose brands that offer cheaper products than before the pandemic. Further, only 14% of UK adults strongly agreed that they were financially prepared to handle the pandemic, meaning they might be less likely to spend on green or ethical products on the other side. 

What does this mean for brand marketers: 

  • Marketers must find a way to show they care about business for good, while considering that consumers feeling the squeeze might put price before ethics. 

Consumers have gone digital

  • With most retail stores closed, consumers across Europe have gone digital. The report found 30% of Italian and Spanish consumers are now more likely to connect digitally with brands. This contrasted with 21% of UK consumers and 19% of shoppers in France.

  • Year-on-year e-commerce sales across Europe's five largest economies will increase by 18% by the end of 2020. 

  • The report also determined that digital-first brands, such as Amazon, will emerge the strongest. While the online giant‘s sales soared 40% between April and June, digitally mature brands like John Lewis and Argos are likely to survive the recession. However, unlike Amazon, they still need to rely less on sales from physical stores.

What does this mean for brand marketers: 

  • Marketers should continue digital efforts as Europe enters its recession. Further, a surge in media and entertainment consumption during this period should encourage more brands to reconsider traditional advertising channels.

Trust will be the key driver in economic recovery

  • Convincing consumers to part with their cash in a recession is both vital and tricky. The report found only 25% of French consumers, 26% of UK, and 30% of Spanish online adults agree that companies will do what they say they are going to do.

  • Job uncertainty while one of the biggest side effects of the pandemic. Due to partial employment protection, French employees are the least worried about losing their jobs (27%). However, the rest are less certain, particularly the UK, where 41% of respondents did not feel secure enough in their jobs, followed by Italy at 37%. 

What does this mean for brands marketers: 

  • It‘s vital for marketers put trust at the top of the agenda]. The need for brand transparency in a post-pandemic world is critical if brands are to balance the economic realities of the recession with the uncertainty of its consumers.