Amid the highest levels of inflation we’ve seen in Australia since 1990, consumer motivations and spending habits are likely to change. Consumer confidence is down, with the latest ANZ-Roy Morgan poll reporting that only 6% of Australians expect ‘good times’ for the Australian economy over the next 12 months.

Younger generations of consumers are more likely to be concerned by rising inflation and cost of living pressures. Research from Getty Images and iStock’s creative insights platform, VisualGPS, found that 77% of Gen Z and millennial consumers in Australia and New Zealand believe that the cost of living will exceed their means. Further, 49% of ANZ Gen Z and millennials admit that they’re prone to financial anxiety.

For retail marketers, a recession or cost of living crisis can be a tricky thing to navigate. While we can’t solve a problem like rising inflation with advertising, we can be more empathetic and helpful. This means being more responsive to consumers’ needs and more clear about the value that products and services can bring to their customers’ lives. Rethinking your visual strategy is an important step to achieve this.

Consumers want brands to “lighten up” this holiday season

While this holiday season is overshadowed by inflation and cost of living increases, brands aren’t looking to pare back their holiday messaging. In fact, searches on Getty Images and iStock’s VisualGPS Insights Platform for “Christmas” are up 20% compared to this time last year, making it the most popular search globally.

However, brands are taking a slightly different visual strategy for the holiday season. Instead of using visuals that depict consumers actively shopping or saving, brands are using visuals that depict the good things in life that money can’t buy like connecting with their family and friends. This will allow brands to resonate and engage with a wider range of consumers with diverse financial realities and needs.

Employing visuals of “togetherness” and “connectedness” in sales campaign visuals and video echoes what consumers want to see as well. According to VisualGPS consumer survey data, 77% of ANZ consumers say that with so many aspects of life feeling serious right now, they want to “lighten the mood” now more than ever. In addition, 79% of consumers want brands to show empathy in their visual marketing.

As the saying goes, “The head is bigger, but the heart is infinitely more powerful”. For retail marketers, choosing visuals which remind people why they shop for gifts, like the joy of spending time with family

and friends over Christmas, is more likely to inspire a shopping trip during a difficult economic period.

Four ways to improve your visual marketing strategies

To appeal to more price-sensitive consumers, there are several ways that retail marketers can place empathy and financial wellness at the heart of their visual marketing campaigns:

1. Be real

With more consumers wanting brands to show empathy and understand what they’re going through, realness in campaigns is a necessity. Consumers want to see high-quality imagery representing them and the way they see and interact with the world. For retailers, this means showing how the product fits into their world, and being honest, transparent and real about what the brand is and what it stands for.

2. Stand out

Three in five consumers base their purchasing decisions on images, videos and illustrations they see. When choosing visuals for social media posts or ads, it’s important to keep in mind that 86% of consumers are now turning to social media to smile or laugh, so selecting visuals that showcase your product, service and overall shopping experiences in a playful way are likely to catch the consumer’s eye.

3. Show diverse shoppers

Historically, popular shopping visuals show women at the grocery store, in clothing boutiques, or with

shopping bags on the go. This has been slowly changing and patterns seen in our visuals used by Australians brands this year are showing more men shopping. This reflects the growing number of Aussie men spending nearly double than women on non-essential goods, according to data from Savvy. When selecting visuals, it’s important to reflect your consumers, from all walks of life, backgrounds, ethnicities, disabilities, and communities, to create more inclusive visual storytelling.

4. Utilise video

Video is now the most effective way to engage customers and drive ROI – more than 70% of businesses

believe video produces more conversions than any other content. Paired with the fact that video has 1200% more shares on social media than images and text and 64% of customers say they are more likely to make a purchase after watching a video, investing in high-quality videos is a no-brainer for brands.

Overall, the most effective thing retail marketers can do during times of uncertainty is to demonstrate the value their brand or products brings to people’s lives and execute visual marketing campaigns that speak to their customers’ evolving needs or desires – whether that be joy and unity, or value and ease.

Kate Rourke is head of creative insights for APAC at iStock.