4 Overlooked Opportunities in a Recession
by: Becky Mead
No one wants to simply “survive” a recession, but equally, aiming to thrive might be pushing it. In this article, I’d like to share some often overlooked opportunities that will help you feel less panicked and more productive during challenging seasons like these. Tough times force you to be better. Let’s explore four accessible ways you can step up and succeed.
1. Talk to your shopper
Attempting to drive sales by guessing your ideal buyer’s wants and needs is a risky game. This is especially true in an economic downturn because the landscape is shifting. You must get your information straight from the horse’s mouth. But should you talk to your shopper or consumer?
Throughout a recession, your shopper is your priority. The shopper is at the shelf making purchase decisions. Yes, their toddler might be begging for Paw Patrol biscuits, but those “extra” items don’t always get the go-ahead when money is tight. Lunchboxes are a perfect example of something that goes from extravagant to essential during a downturn. If you want to stay in the shopping basket, appeal to the person carrying the coin.
It also pays to identify what’s currently valuable to your people. What’s happening with household wallets and the flow of money? What’s driving people to buy? Our online community of shoppers told us they’re feeling anxious about the economic downturn, which is making them cut back on premium products. However, perhaps partly due to the pandemic, shoppers are still prioritising healthy habits, convenience and family. Despite being cost-conscious, people still want to feed their families with interesting, nutritious foods that support optimal health. Money isn’t the only thing that matters, so speak to your shopper and get in their shoes.
2. Make your core value relevant
Do what you do best AND add more value. What role does your brand - and the category at large - play in people’s lives? Why is your product relevant right now? In a recession, you must home in on your core value and communicate that effectively through your marketing mix. Talk to your heavy users to uncover enlightening insights. Establish who you are and how you signal to shoppers that you’re their friend in troubled times.
Our research indicates that shoppers are currently most motivated by value for money, rewards, quality and trust. Trust is extra important when times are tough. How can you successfully communicate that your product is the “safe” option? How can you support people in crisis so they’ll remember you when life gets lighter?
One way to become a trusty companion is by surprising and delighting your shopper. This endeavour needn’t be elaborate or expensive. Often, it’s simply about a shift in perspective. Perhaps your product could provide a moment of joy or affordable luxury to those making sacrifices to their lifestyle. Maybe the lower end of your portfolio is just what the doctor ordered for shoppers downgrading during this time.
3. Use this time to shine
Chaos can inspire creativity and offer opportunities to stand out - as an individual, a brand and a retail partner. It’s all about being proactive under pressure rather than acting like a deer in the headlights. While others fumble or freeze, how can you get energised about a new direction? How can you bring the outside change into the organisation and leverage it to your advantage?
It’s easy to succeed (and look good doing it) when there’s plenty of money around because you can splash the cash and make mistakes without many consequences. You learn far more when forced to think smart and deliver results with limited resources.
Show up for your team, your stakeholders and your shoppers by starting collaborative conversations about providing more value while keeping the business moving forward. Are you overspending in any areas? How can you double down on what matters most in the long run? What’s working in your marketing mix that you can drive consistency around? Stay curious and pay attention. Opportunities always exist, so maintain an open mind and take the lead.
4. Create wiggle room
When you remain connected to what’s changing in the market, you can spot gaps to fill and generate low-risk ideas to try. An economic downturn may not be the ideal time to launch something left-of-field, but you can certainly play into the change, pull your value levers and prove your product’s value in people’s lives.
Come back to your heartland and ask: Have you got the products that SELL on-shelf?
Have those products got enough space? Can you find them? Can you see the price?
What is your fundamental proposition? Are you communicating it in a way that’s relevant right now? What would make your sales promotion SPARKLE?
It’s worth remembering that people often stick to products they know and love when facing financial hardship. However, they do still experiment (usually to get more bang for their buck). Shoppers are more likely to buy a trial or sample a product rather than invest in something new. As a result, it’s smart to offer low-risk options that will drive consideration.
It’s also pivotal to ensure your product portfolio caters to different demographics. This helps accommodate shoppers trading up or down so you don’t lose people to substitute brands. For example, a recession might bring new customers to a luxury chocolate brand that can provide a satisfying weekly indulgence to people who have slashed their budget for high-end restaurants.
Lead the change
While other organisations freeze, fizzle or freak out, can you be the pioneer that makes sense of the change before proactively stepping in? Listen. Learn. Adapt. Experiment. Find the right wave to ride through the storm. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
Managing Director, PLAY Innovation
Becky has spent the last 18 years getting curious about understanding consumers so FMCG manufacturers can create products they truly want. Becky’s favourite part of the job is helping businesses leverage the consumer perspective to grow - fast! She believes in the benefits of working in partnership with her clients across the entire innovation process and focuses on consumer-first, agile approaches.