Winning with Shoppers in ‘The New Normal’ ZEAL Creative explores how grocery brands can plan for ‘business as unusual’


August 2020, ZEAL Creative, the UK’s most effective brand activation agency, has issued a new white paper to support grocery brands to plan activation for the next 6-12 months in a rapidly changing and uncertain environment.

Whilst it is difficult to know what the rest of the year holds, with analysis of current shopper behaviour ZEAL has created a model that identifies four emerging shopper mindsets that will help brands to ‘COVID-proof’ their brand activation.

Largely shaped by the impact of the epidemic and its effects on the economy, these four temporary mindsets – ‘Inspire Me’, ‘Offer Support’, ‘Make It Special’ and ‘Help Me Cope’ – will enable brands to cater to current and future shopper behaviour.

The second white paper in ZEAL’s ‘Brand Activation in the Age of COVID-19’ series, the latest key findings include:

  • Purchasing patterns have changed across channels, establishing new distribution points – big weekly shops, local convenience shopping and engagement with direct-to-consumer models continue to dominate
  • Value is prized – on-pack promotions will build brand equity across retailers and drive competition with own-brand equivalents but can also add value and offer affordable opportunities for treats and pampering at home
  • Localism and community continue to matter – presenting opportunities for brands to help citizens to help each other
  • Concerns around food waste have not diminished – 38% of shoppers are engaged with the topic of food waste1 and a third less food is being thrown away2
  • In-home and virtual experiences elevate social connection – from restaurant home cooking kits to live digital music and virtual travel experiences, creativity offers a point of difference

Strategies to win in the current retail environment:

  • Continue to ‘activate’ your brands – investment in brand building and strong activation to support shopper decision-making
  • Innovation, testing and learning to create new engagement opportunities
  • Focus on e-commerce and digital acceleration, developing more routes to market
  • Maximise social occasions from the ‘at-home restaurant’ to seasonal parties
  • Clarify purpose to avoid ‘purpose fatigue’
  • Deliver value in this period of ‘pandemic purgatory’
  • Plan for potential future lockdowns but support shoppers to enjoy as ‘life goes on’

Callum Saunders, Head of Planning at ZEAL Creative, comments: “2020 has certainly shown us that it is impossible to predict the future, but at the same time, brands who delay or forgo planning could miss key engagement opportunities and suffer losses. Data has proven that activating brands in difficult times can foster long-term shopper loyalty, so it is not an area to put on hold. Yet, when traditionally much of brand engagement has centred on the sporting calendar, festivals and seasonal events, it is understandable that brands will be hesitant to fix activity too tightly.

“By considering the emerging shopper mindsets we have modelled, brands can build strategies to meet their needs and form flexible plans that deliver. Now is also a prime time for grocery to embrace the digital potential for “pandemic-friendly” engagement. Grocery brands, especially from the snack, confectionery and drinks categories, can save social interaction for consumers with new occasions to enjoy beyond the Zoom Quiz. Digital activity will also increase presence online and build more brand resilience as eCommerce spend grows.”

For a copy of ‘Brand Activation in the Age of COVID-19: Winning with Shoppers in ‘The New Normal’ please contact ZEAL’s co-founder and creative partner, Stewart Hilton:

About ZEAL Creative

As the UK’s most effective brand activation marketing agency, ZEAL Creative delivers multi-award-winning campaigns for brands includingNestlé, Kellogg’s, Arla, McCain, Dr Oetker and Warburtons.

With unrivalled insight and expertise, ZEAL Creative helps bring brands to life, with campaigns that engage, inspire and motivate consumers into action at key moments on the path to purchase.