How Is the Pandemic Shaping Consumer Behavior and Business Priorities?

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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform how consumers behave. Experts argue that such evolution of consumer behavior is caused by three major forces: economic fallout and uncertainty, preference shifts, and digital acceleration.

These changes are expected to be felt for the long term, molding the new normal environment. Here are some notable consumer trends that will likely to continue in 2021:

Shopping & Consumption

The COVID-19 pandemic was the catalyst for the rapid adoption of online retail activities globally. According to recent statistics, in the U.S. alone, the number of consumers using e-grocery apps tripled to 47% between February and March. Retail giants Walmart and Instacart reported a surge in app downloads, rising by 160% and 218% MoM in March, respectively.

Experts predict that the e-commerce market will surge further in 2021. The demand for e-grocery platforms and deliveries will continue to increase as people remain reluctant to shop in-store. Consumers are also expected to show a higher preference for trusted brands and local shops closer to homes. However, consumers, especially those belonging to low to middle-income households, are anticipated to shop less to save on costs.

Health & Wellbeing

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened telemedicine’s growth globally, kicking off a trend that will most likely extend even after the pandemic. According to a recent Forrester report, in the U.S. alone, virtual care consultations are projected to exceed one billion by the end of the year. E-pharmacies are also expected to grow as most consumers still hesitate to buy necessities outside of their homes.

Similarly, the demand for fitness initiatives and equipment will likely continue in 2021. This comes as more people prefer to exercise in their homes rather than going to the gym for health and safety purposes. Organic products and health supplements like vitamin C and chewable iron supplements will remain a hit as consumers aim to boost their immune system while waiting for a vaccine.

Work & Learning

Remote working will likely be the new normal for a bigger share of the global workforce post-pandemic once proven to deliver similar business results. In fact, 74% of CFOs globally plan to move at least 5% of their onsite staff to permanent remote roles after the pandemic, according to Gartner.

Investments in e-Learning platforms, online modules, and remote training programs are anticipated to rise further in 2021, both for business organizations and educational institutions.

Travel & Mobility

As more countries slowly emerge from lockdowns and open their territories for tourism, experts still anticipate reduced spending on travel and leisure in 2021, especially for international trips. Travelers are expected to plan their trips meticulously to ensure adherence to safety protocols and safeguard their health.

However, travelers may significantly prefer domestic travels over international trips to help their local tourism recover from the pandemic.

Media & Entertainment

Governments around the world mandated the closure of non-essential shops during the pandemic. These include salons, spas, movie theaters, and other recreational businesses. In the U.S. alone, nearly 100,000 establishments have closed permanently since the start of the outbreak.

Fears over contracting the virus have led consumers to rely on gaming, online streaming services, and digital entertainment. Experts argue that such a trend will continue even after the pandemic subsides.

How Should Businesses Respond to These Changes?

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Business leaders must realign their strategies to cater to such rapidly changing consumer behavior. According to experts, they must focus on improving operational efficiency, transforming business processes, and enhancing the digital experience for both employees and customers in preparation for the post-pandemic world. Here are some ways of how businesses can catch up with emerging consumer trends:

1. Evolve your retail business model.

Retailers must expand their digital shelf to ensure liquidity and visibility among consumers. Hosting virtual events may also enhance their customers’ digital experience.

2. Create omni-channels for customer servicing.

Aside from mobile platforms, retailers must also invest in new engagement models like the buy online and pickup in-store (BOPIS), buy online, return in-store (BORIS), and personalized shopping initiatives to boost client servicing.

3. Implement “Discounter” programs.

Retailers must provide innovative customer incentives to maintain customer loyalty. This includes offering a more unified rewards program, email subscriptions, as well as discount bundles.

4. Use Virtual and Augmented Reality tools to interact with customers.

Shop owners may incorporate augmented reality in their operations to virtually present their products to customers. This will allow them to entice buyers and engage with customers despite social distancing measures.

Overall, the coronavirus pandemic’s effects on how consumers behave and what customers prefer will reshape how businesses operate in the long run. Knowing these emerging consumer trends will help business leaders like you remain relevant and stay ahead of the competition.

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