How Did Consumer Trends Change During the Pandemic?
In January 2020, when the first Covid-19 cases were being reported, everybody thought it would be somewhat like SARS or H1N1 adventures. But by July 2020, it was clear that the world was functioning in a very different way. With almost every single nation being under lockdowns, the world was no longer the place as we knew it in certain terms.
Our lives were altered, our habits changed and we developed new ways and methods to deal with long lockdown periods. The entire economic reaction mechanisms and the tools to cope with such an impact needed re-designing. The pandemic hit the social and political areas as well but in this article our focus will be on the covid impact on consumer behaviour and consumer spending.
The long lockdown periods introduced after January 2020 caused significant changes that affected our lifestyles. Especially with the economic changes experienced on a global scale, the habits of consumers have also changed, leading to a different transformation in the world of commerce and e-commerce. While the actions taken to minimise the contact between people in order to limit the effects of the pandemic caused stagnation in the economic activities of all sectors, consumers were also affected by this transformation. Here are the changes in consumer trends and behaviours during the pandemic process...
Shopping without actually seeing and touching the product
Consumers who used to see and, if necessary, try on the product had to make changes in their shopping practices. Especially when scientific research showed COVID-19 virus may remain on different surfaces for up to a certain hour, consumers wanted no contact with products in the shops, market places and at the shopping malls. This resulted in shopping online the new norm but for some sectors the shift towards online purchases seem to last longer. At some point restrictions were eased and people returned to the shops. Despite this fact, there are some things we’re buying online more. Clothing, electrical appliances and games and toys are a few of the categories which are noted to get bigger in terms of online shopping.
Inflation and the cost of living seem to cause people to reduce their delayable expenses (or delayable purchases) and also how much food they are buying. For several years now, online shopping has been a growing trend and a spreading behaviour. When the pandemic hit the economies in various ways, this trend accelerated. Spending online still remains high but the shift towards shopping in store has started. One other thing to note is the fact that online shopping applications became more popular than ever, as well as contactless payment methods. Although the pandemic has subdued, consumers seem to continue these habits for a long time.
Embracing e-commerce during Covid was pretty much the way to cope with the difficulties which were brought by it. However, supporting local businesses and maintaining the integrity of their communities have become a part of the agenda quite quickly. When consumers are asked what best describes their chopping behaviour, most of them were willing to shop locally although online options sometimes were less expensive and more convenient. During the pandemic, it is true that a great number of consumers started to turn to domestic manufacturers and brands, which were in economic crisis. People working for these companies were in danger of losing their jobs but thanks to the shift to buy locally, especially domestic brands in the product and service sector gained many new customers.
Consumer habits, which increased especially in order to support local brands, saw a rise (approximately 3 times more) compared to the period before the pandemic. There is another aspect of buying locally which has to do with the shopping experience itself. Research shows that it’s still a significant topic for the consumers to have the in-store experience. People do research online and sometimes finalise their shopping on a website but overall, most people prefer the in-store shopping experience to online shopping. This means buying local is still a trend which seems to last longer. Another reason for the tendency to buy from local manufacturers was the problems experienced in export and import procedures. Let’s not forget the fact that, due to supply chain problems during the pandemic most global brands experienced difficulties in renewing their stocks.
Transition from Analog Systems to Digital World
Lockdowns, long quarantine periods and social isolation which came into our lives with the pandemic undoubtedly increased the importance of virtual channels. People who did their business meetings, online training sessions, friends meetings and even their exercise routine in the virtual world started to do their shopping virtually as well. Thus, online shopping, which was popular before the pandemic, became even more desirable and pretty much necessary. Hence the golden period of online shopping. Consumers, especially those who experience online shopping for the first time and are convinced that it is safe, have started to order even their smallest needs online.
Thanks to this system, the effects of which still continue, many grocery and clothing brands have now moved their sales online rather than to the retail sector. In the previous paragraphs, we mentioned consumer behaviour inclining towards in-store shopping and buying locally. This doesn't mean that online shopping has lost its magic. By no means it will. While a majority of consumers want a local shopping experience, it’s clear that they will potentially shop online which brings us to another topic: hybrid services. Hybrid services are now the generic expectation of consumers.
For instance, making the purchase online and picking up the item from the shop (Click and collect) and the possibility of returning an item which was bought online to the shop. These are the improvements in shopping experience thanks to digitalisation but clearly the pandemic made them even bigger. In other words, despite the difficulties we had, we also saw many improvements in services and applications.
Building Brand Trust
Brand trust is the confidence which consumers have in your brand’s ability to deliver what was promised. It was additionally difficult for companies to deliver what they promised to do during the pandemic. Many companies suffered from supply chain disruptions and other complicated problems brought by the pandemic. Maintaining the customers’ trust has become even more difficult.
However, brands which could successfully manage crisis management during the COVID-19 period were able to weather these difficulties because they understood the importance of customer satisfaction and customer experience. Companies showed extra effort in certain areas. They tried to provide high quality service and paid extra attention to hygiene and social distance rules. Companies with this mentality were preferred by consumers.
Brands, which provided support to health care workers were able to create a relationship of trust with their customers. Most companies were engaged in social responsibility efforts which made an impact on their customer base. Showing interest in social issues and being willing to do something for the community resonated well with the customers as it should. Building brand trust is not easy but to preserve brand trust is even harder. In times of crisis many things come crashing down and it’s vital for the companies to preserve valuable aspects of their products and services.
Decrease of Leisure Spending
Before the pandemic, consumers' spending on non-essential shopping such as clothing, electronics, jewellery or games was at a high level which showed a general well-being of the economies. At the beginning of the pandemic, naturally everyone prioritised food and beverage expenditures. So much so that before the lockdowns, almost everyone either physically flocked to the markets or turned to grocery shopping online.
As COVID-19 has also developed a global understanding of cooperation and solidarity against a humanitarian crisis, consumers have started to be more conscious about shopping. More and more people are aware of the realities of their own communities as well as others’. It matters to them what they are buying is coming from where and under which circumstances.
Consumers, who think differently about where and how their shopping comes from, what kind of processes it goes through and the use of worldly resources, have started to be more transparent about shopping. In contrast, companies and businesses which ask the question "What is the customer experience?" are also beginning to look into the answers in the light of the pandemic. Customer experience should be the focus of the company, not the sales figures. Those who put customer experience first will reach the desired sales figures anyway. In order to get out of the hardships brought by the pandemic, businesses need to remember how important it is to stay updated about the customer experience and customer spending behaviour.