User experience Behaviour Design

Prioritising needs over wants: How consumer agency is shaping the customer experience (CX)

In recent years, consumers have increasingly demonstrated the need to have more agency in their consumption choices.
6 minute read
By Elisha Bauer-Maison

In fact, market analysis shows that these behaviours seem to have solidified and strengthened during the recent pandemic and will continue to prevail. So why this effect? And how can brands’ strategies for customer experience respond to this important consumer shift?

Brands as counsel

To no surprise, our clients within the Personal Hygiene and Cleaning Products industries have been direct beneficiaries and influential actors in their own ways during the pandemic. For one, they have reaped the benefits of manufacturing essential products to consumers who have had to pull back on their spending and concentrate on purchasing only the necessities.

40% of respondents say that they are becoming more mindful of where they spend their money, especially those whose employment has been impacted by the crisis.

Study conducted in the UK, McKinsey.

Source: McKinsey

Rather than having to shut their doors, these brands have seen an increase in sales.

In addition, there has been a 50%+ growth in personal care and hygiene products purchasing online in the UK.

Study by McKinsey in the UK, McKinsey.

But most interestingly, these brands have in one way or another become counsel to consumers who are looking for expert advice to help prioritise what products they purchase during Covid-19. Essentially, consumers need that additional help to determine what is necessary, and what is not. This has resulted in an increased demand from consumers for digital platforms that lead with expertise or, at least, brand knowledge that goes hand in hand with sales.

Consumer research into personal hygiene and cleaning products has shown that people are feeling a lack of agency in making decisions on what products best effectively protect themselves, their environment, their safe spaces, and their loved ones from external threats. People are cautious and are looking for reassurance and guidance from voices of authority to help them make these choices and feel more confident in the future of their country.

In fact, 62% of consumers say their country will not make it through the crisis without brands playing a critical role in addressing challenges that arose from the crisis.

Blake Morgan, Forbes.

Source: Forbes

However, we are seeing this same pattern of behaviour come up over and over again, and not just towards brands within the personal hygiene and cleaning sectors – this shift in behaviour extends to most areas of consumers’ lives. Furthermore, to make these choices, consumers expect expert advice related content and more transparency to come from the brand itself to back up product effectiveness claims, and would deprioritise community user generated content, in order to relieve anxieties over having to rely on their own judgment and not knowing what products will best protect themselves and their loved ones. To consumers, this is the new definition of value for money.

Essentially, consumers are looking for products that meet their needs but also require real time accurate information that make them feel like they are always informed and in control of what they bring into their lives at all times. This is especially important for consumers to feel like they made a good brand/product choice when they prioritise basic necessities over other more elective purchases.

On a positive note

On a positive note, there is an opportunity for brands to position themselves as trusted sources of information. Doing so can lead to brands fulfilling the emotional gap that arises from behaviour change, and allow them to engage with their customers in a more meaningful way than their competitors who fail to do so. This is especially critical when traditional voices of authority are less effective in appeasing anxieties and offering support to promote well-being.

44% of people say that they are very or somewhat pessimistic that the government will be able to solve the coronavirus issue alone2. In addition, 55% say that brands and companies are responding more quickly and effectively than Government.

Blake Morgan, Forbes.

Brands may even have to collaborate with public services to do so. This will then translate into the maintenance of long-term relationships and deeper connections with consumers and will build a stronger pillar of trust with their customers.

There are also challenges that come with these spaces for brands. As consumers expect more of the brands they love, specifically for brands to have a voice over issues that matter, saying nothing is also saying something. Not saying anything does not put out a good message and brands will suffer from consumer backlash (i.e. decreased trust in brand). The pressure on brands to have a communication strategy to respond to actuality, along with its clarity and effectiveness, will distinguish meaningful brands from shallow ones.

So what do brands need to do?

So what do brands need to do in the immediate and long-term future to cater to these customer behaviours?


  • Provide digestible and concise accurate facts & information for consumers to stay on top of. Keep them looped in and up to date without scaring them.
  • Make the information quickly and easily accessible to consumers, without them having to search high and low for this type of information in an attempt to appease their anxieties.
  • Make sure that your message is consistent across all channels your brand uses to communicate with consumers.


  • Listen to your customers by tracking to stay up to date on how they evolve.
  • Use analytics to inform changes to your digital platforms.
  • Identify behaviour change by looking at a past baseline (pre-covid), at current behaviour, and create a strategy that is aligned to behavioural long-term patterns.

User Research

  • The consideration phase (pre-purchase) and repeat phase (re-new or purchase again) play a strong role in ensuring customer reassurance and loyalty.
  • Find the opportunities of where and when brands can reach customers where brands can effectively meet consumer’s repeated information needs.

Contact us

If you would like to find out more about this subject or how ekino can help you with your Customer Experience (CX) or Digital Strategy, please contact us.

Elisha Bauer-Maison
Junior UX Designer, ekino London .
Elisha Bauer-Maison is a Junior UX Designer at ekino London, previously an intern. Bringing experience from her academic background in social research methods and statistical research, Elisha focuses on qualitative and quantitative user research to better understand the users she designs for.

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