Unilever, the FMCG giant, anticipates that several of the consumer behaviour changes observed during COVID-19 are likely to become permanent and is adapting its processes across insights and innovation accordingly.

As one of the world’s biggest advertisers, with a huge stable of brands, Unilever is impacted by COVID-19 across multiple everyday categories including food, cleaning and personal care and faces particular challenges navigating changes in category demand.

For example, brands in Unilever’s beauty and personal care division – which includes household names such as Dove, Pond’s, Rexona/Sure, and Fair & Lovely – are seeing a lot of change while ‘normal life’ is on hold.

Consumers now working from home have on average 11 fewer occasions every week to use Unilever’s hair-washing, skincare or deodorant products before they head out to work or school.

Unilever’s ice-cream sales – it owns both the Magnum and Ben & Jerry’s brands – are also set to suffer in 2020 as people are forced to stay away from outdoor hotspots in the peak summer sales period.

But CEO Alan Jope is confident that the company’s “newly-discovered organisational agility” and emerging consumer behaviours will offer opportunities in the long term.

He told a Q1 earnings call that Unilever has used the COVID-19 crunch to re-tool its approach to product innovation and new product launches.

“Many of our categories and brands moved quickly to replan their innovation,” he explained. (For more details, read WARC’s report: Five ways Unilever is adapting in the COVID-19 era.)

“Some we’ve postponed, some we’ve accelerated. We can adjust to consumers buying in different channels, and we re-worked our communication to make sure that it remains relevant.”

Already, Unilever is looking to the long-term recovery: “We are adapting to new demand patterns and preparing for lasting changes in consumer behaviour, in each country, as we move out of the crisis and into recovery,” Jope said.

He noted that consumer behaviour changes as a result of COVID-19 have led to changing short-term demand patterns, and some of these changes will end up being long term or even permanent.

Shoppers are, of course, buying more hygiene products for hands and household surfaces right now: “this is one of the changes we expect to continue beyond the immediate crisis,” Jope said.

Sourced from WARC