COVID-19 created significant shifts in consumer behavior across most industries. New trends emerged and businesses had to act quickly to meet the demands of the new normal. As countries slowly recover from the first pandemic wave and markets rebound, the question that firms must now seek to answer is: which consumer habits will stick in the post-COVID-19 world?
While it’s still early to fully grasp the repercussions of COVID-19, based on available research and observations of countries that are ahead of the curve, we’ve identified the following six consumer habits that are expected to remain in the foreseeable future.
1. The shift to digital
The pandemic has accelerated the use of digital technologies among countries, companies, and especially individuals. According to Amdocs, 30% of US consumers are using remote work for the first time, 32% are taking advantage of new online food or grocery services, and 29% are trying new media and subscription services. As the worst passes, we expect to see many markets to continue to stick to their digital lifestyles.
There has been an average of over 30% growth of online consumers in food and household categories alone. Moreover, a lot of people will continue to work from home, increasing their reliance on digital technologies to connect with customers and suppliers. Latest research indicates that the number of employees permanently engaged with remote work globally, is set to double in 2021- from 16.4% to 32.4%.
With more people stuck at home, there’s also an increased focus on online shopping. According to Nielsen, online shopping has become the most critical shopping channel across regions for constrained consumers – ones whose income has been constrained due to COVID-19-driven challenges. For 20% percent of constrained consumers, online is their most frequented channel. In another global study by Salesforce, Inc., 58% of consumers said that they expect to do more online shopping after the pandemic than they did before. Similarly, 80% of business buyers plan to do more business purchasing online post-pandemic than they did before it.
Consumers’ appetite for digital content increased significantly during COVID-19. Hubspot research indicates that 40% consumers are using streaming platforms more and there’s a 32% rise in consumers participating in group video chats. In order to engage this digital-first customer, every industry – from fintech to automotive and travel – will need to put digital transformation at the heart of their strategies.
2. Conscientious consumerism
The pandemic has brought about an increased sense of responsibility among a large section of society. According to a global study by Salesforce, 71% of consumers said that they pay more attention to companies’ values than they did a year ago. More than half the consumers agreed to have stopped buying or switched to a different company because their values did not align. In the US, more than half of the consumers (54%) believe that brands should use their influence to impact important social issues.
In another study by the marketing consultancy Good. Must. Grow, which has been measuring the Conscious Consumer Spending Index (CCSI) since 2013, socially responsible spending increased 15% since last November. All these studies indicate that the pandemic has increased consumer expectations from brands to display greater social responsibility.
This includes extending greater support to local businesses. Research surveys indicate 46% of shoppers in the US take deliberate efforts to support businesses that align with their personal values. Searches for ”support local businesses” have grown each year by over 2000X globally.
Savvy brands are using these consumer signals to create highly relevant brand messages. In India, Cadbury extended support to local retail stores in its latest advertisement. It uses AI technology to create hyper-personalized ads, featuring store names based on the viewer’s location.
3. Hygiene and safety consciousness
Even as people gradually start to venture out, hygiene and cleanliness will continue to be the primary area of concern. Research shows consumers will be more conscious about hygiene while dining at restaurants, sending children back to school, making leisure trips, among other routine activities.
According to a Consumer Pulse survey by GfK, 86% of respondents believe they will continue to wash their hands as diligently as they are now; 73% say they will continue to follow social distancing protocols; and, 73% will wear face masks when unwell.
Personal care products such as face masks, hand sanitizers, air purifiers have been particularly in-demand during the pandemic and are expected to stay popular at least until a vaccine is available.
Businesses that meet their consumers’ hygiene and safety expectations and clearly communicate their measures will be well-positioned to succeed in the post-COVID-19 era.
4. DIY home improvement
The housebound consumer now engages in far more DIY activities and this adaptive trend is expected to stay. According to the NPD group, nearly one in 10 consumers have taken on home improvement projects they would have hired professionals for during pre-pandemic times.
The lockdown has seen the development of hobbies such as baking, gardening, etc. The do-it-yourself attitude, which gained momentum in the interest of safety and store shutdowns, has made a health and environment conscious, self-sustaining consumer. This has undoubtedly had an impact on shopping and consumption habits as well. According to Nielsen, sales of food preparation products, pet grooming products, electric razors increased by over 19% in June this year compared to 2019.
While Walmart has noted an increase in the sales of fishing gear in the second quarter, meal-kit sales of Hello Fresh- a German company saw a 122% increase in sales in the international market in the second quarter.
Paint manufacturers Sherwin-Williams Co. reported that their third-quarter net sales and earnings per share beat expectations, with CEO John Morikis emphasizing the persistent and unprecedented strength in their DIY business segment as US consumers invested in sprucing up their homes.
5. A burgeoning gig-economy
Increased job instability, unemployment, and work-at-home culture have increased gig workers across regions. Japan reported a 513% year-on-year increase in new gig workers since the coronavirus outbreak. According to a study by Upwork, an online marketplace for freelance services, two million Americans, or 36% of the country’s workforce, started freelancing in 2020. By 2023, the gig economy gross volume is estimated to grow to 455 billion USD. People are now increasingly turning to stay-at-home diverse alternatives to boost income and adapt to the dynamic digital next normal.
As industries gradually recover from the disruptions caused by the coronavirus, gathering market research, including consumer behavior and competitive data, will be critical to informing strategies in 2021 and beyond. Netscribes has been working with market leaders across the globe to respond better through cohesive data and insights. Whether you need to keep a pulse on competitive activities, track the latest market developments, or gauge consumer sentiment, you can rely on us to deliver the insights you need to steer your business in the right direction. Contact us to know more.