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Getting the youth on your side post Covid-19

South Africa’s youth has a new attitude towards consumerism that is impacting how they interact with brands and will continue to influence their consumption behaviours post the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is the opinion of MetropolitanRepublic Brand Manager, owner of an e-commerce business that actively targets the youth, and member of the Youth tribe herself, Sarah Deeb.

Focusing on that section of the Youth market that actively shops online, Deeb said they had entered a phase of conscious consumerism, because they’re no longer distracted by impulse purchases and recreational spending. During lockdown, with more time on their hands than ever before, these Youth actively decided which brands to support and why, she said.

“Being able to consider the trade-offs while spending has created to two buying paths: the ‘essential’ and the ‘sanity’ purchases1, which helped us stay sane while ‘the world is ending’. As soon as we could shop online again, we also embraced the #supportlocal drive2 in an attempt to ‘preserve the world as we know it’.”

Deeb is confident these behaviours will persist post the pandemic for two reasons. Firstly, from a habit-forming perspective, the new reality has sunk in long enough to make the change permanent (or at least until something drastic shakes it up again). Secondly, because those Youth shopping online are making more calculated purchases, they’re seeing ‘more love’ from each buy.

Given the latter, she said: “The Youth will keep shopping this way simply because it feels good. And, this feel-good takeaway is lasting longer because we’re shopping less and making it count. That presents an incredible opportunity for brands to build loyalty, because there’s finally time to form relationships with customers – even if it’s an automated yet personalised ‘thank you note” post-purchase.”

Deeb’s takeaway is that brand ‘purpose’ is one of the key differentiators now, and will only become more important over time.  The Youth want to hear what brands are actually doing, and are watching closely to see whether they’re ‘walking the talk’. She highlighted that purpose is vital for customer retention, referring to Cone Porter Novelli’s 2018 Purpose Study, which states that 80% of Youth is more loyal to purpose-driven brands.

“Consider it the rise of the ‘impact shopper’ who, if the opportunity presents itself and the individual can’t identify how the brand actively aligns with his or her community’s impact agenda, will simply find another brand to align with,” Deeb said.

“When ‘loyals’ make return purchases, they drive sustainable growth and create organic brand awareness simply from sharing their love with their tribes on social media. While purpose might not be the first reason why the Youth supports a brand, not having a social conscious will be the first reason we ‘cancel’ a brand.

“This ‘cancel culture’ is particularly frightening for brand custodians in this age of social consciousness, because the Youth are so unforgiving. Brands that take no social stance, stay silent or are tone-deaf towards social issues will be cancelled.

“Brands that do not maintain authenticity in their attempts to do so, will be cancelled. Jumping on the bandwagon and having double-standards towards social issues, is a crime worth cancellation too. It needs to be clear that a brand is willing to disregard its bottom line to truly be considered socially conscious.”3