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The More Things Change: Three Trends in Buyer Behavior Under COVID-19

Informational article by AIM.

Informed adaptation is now the name of the game. One thing we know is that all previous trend forecasting can be binned: we live in a world no one could have predicted – but that isn’t all we know.

Below, find AIM’s top three takeaways into how the COVID-19 economy has reshaped buyer behavior and how that should reshape how you provide products to anticipate and meet clients’ needs.

Work with the New Normal

Kara Lister, a telework analyst with Global Work Analytics, points out that one of the biggest social adjustments has been the rapid shift to WFH and teleworking. Before March, 3% of Americans worked from home. Now, we’re pushing past the previous theoretical capacity of 53% of all jobs being done remotely. That’s tens and tens of millions looking to adjust.

Fortunately, many of our distributor members were in that previous 3%. This experience can help drive sales. In respectful and empathetic tones, clients can be educated on the many small, everyday needs WFH creates for employees.

AIM President Jamie Coggeshall suggests a great tactic – on video calls, ask a buyer to describe what is on their desk (a mug, a bowl, a phone charger perhaps) and be ready to provide promotional solutions to all of those products.

One thing we’ve observed in gathering anecdata from our members: many corporations are looking to boost employee morale. Suggest care packages filled with branded products that remind isolated workers who they’re working for and why.

Another major industry rapidly adjusting is restaurants. Our business strategist suggests flexibility to their take-out and community solidarity needs right now. Reach out and educate them around the material advantages mainstay promo goods like cleanable fridge magnets (for menus + phone numbers) or imprinted gift cards.

Focus on Health, Not Wealth

People aren’t thinking luxury, they’re thinking necessity. Health is the uniting cultural force for American workers and American consumers at the moment. Whereas even a few weeks ago retail-quality and luxury-adjacent products were poised to expand their market share, given our new economy, that’s gone now.

People have limited wallet share for new products, and of that share they’ll be prioritizing the safety and well-being of themselves and their family. Good! Our industry has long been concerned about these issues, and has solutions.

A major product leader will be those with anti-microbial features. Anti-microbial pens and cups that can safely be brought along on trips outside (before being completely sanitized) will ease the anxieties of clients and demonstrate a seriousness of purpose from the brands that provide them.

Remember: anti-microbial products aren’t limited to mainstays such as pens and drinkware. Stay attentive to ways you can integrate into a reacting supply chain – already, AIM VIP Suppliers like Pro Towels are rolling out new, health-driven products like their exclusive anti-microbial towel line.

Stay open to creative health-pushes as well. Combining a health focus with the new realities of work-from-home, yoga mats may find new audiences among workers looking to stay in shape amid a smaller space.

Comfort & Convenience is King

This disruption has changed people’s outlook, not eliminated people’s desires. Stay the course on inventory that has worked, while minding the changed landscape. For instance, athleisure will still perk the interest of many, but now not for style or hipness as much as for comfort.

Where a sleek, moisture-wicking legging in a future-oriented color might have worked before, try offering instead functional, comfortable sweatpants (video calls end at the torso).

These insights can be generalized across categories into a simple, but compelling product truth: in uncertain times, people want comfort and they want convenience.

This means, in an appropriate manner, distributors can still offer necessary solutions through tech items that ease living.

In response to stress, mess, and the little facts of life no one can guess (children tripping over chords, outlets being too far away), many customers will realize the value of power banks, chord protectors, and maybe even camera covers so you’re only seen when you want to be. During conversations, listen actively to complaints that are all too real and that offer you a chance to be a problem-solver.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to get creative with items like blankets and Teddy Bears. While it takes a soft touch when selling, buyers are more open than ever to soft items that ease anxiety and signal that the giver cares for them, perhaps more than ever.

AIM cares too. As part of our #AIMStrong response, we’ll be staying on top of fluid buyer patterns. Volatility wants information, not panic, and we’ll be here with the updates you need and suggestions you can use as we work through this, together.

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