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How COVID-19 Has Changed Consumer Behavior

Lisa Romanin 4 September 2020 • eCommerce, News

The coronavirus pandemic has plunged the world into a global health crisis. The main solution implemented by governments around the world to preserve health was containment. This policy forced a lifestyle change and influenced global consumption patterns. Our usual habits have been shaken up and companies have adapted their offers to survive.

“This storm will pass. But the choices we make now could change our lives for years to come” said Yuval Noah Harari, who analyzes the aftermath of Covid-19 for the Financial Times. He explains the before and after of this epidemic and how our future will evolve, with a focus on the increasingly significant use of digital technology.

So how will consumer behavior unfold in the post-COVID period? Has our way of consumption already changed? Is the digital experience now more important than the physical?

One thing is for sure is that consumer behavior has changed indefinitely and there is no turning back the clock. Businesses will need to adapt in order to survive. Let’s analyze and predict the future behavior of consumers after this global health crisis:


The explosion of online shopping

Since the health crisis, consumers have radically changed their purchasing and consumption habits. What they buy, and especially when and how they buy has changed. It’s no shock that the longer people stay at home, the more they buy online.

E-commerce has become the new normal, and many businesses are seeing a greater percentage of their sales online. The majority of food businesses had to reinvent during the pandemic, with many of them starting online stores or offering curbside pickup.

A useful resource for staying on top of how COVID-19 is impacting on e-commerce is the ROI Revolution Blog. It’s updated regularly with all the latest information and studies. Here’s an example:

“Retail: Global retail sales are expected to dip by 5.7% this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Online purchases of clothing, however, are up 76.7%, with online revenue up 22.2% – but average order value down 54.5%

Grocery: Online grocery has seen continued growth throughout the pandemic, with online grocery sales for delivery and pickup increasing 9% from May to June.

The shift to online purchases in favour of in-store interactions is not without its challenges for businesses. The 3 main challenges for e-commerce companies during the pandemic has been:

  • Retaining new customers that arrived during the pandemic.
  • How to differentiate their online offering from the competition.
  • How to improve the operational efficiency and profitability of your e-commerce site activities.

Globally, e-commerce sites have performed quite well during this crisis and continue to allow retailers to function. It’s therefore important to understand the new habits of your users and their new way of consuming.

The dizzying increase in online shopping recorded during the pandemic will be anything but fleeting as humans are creatures of habit and the virus has enforced new habits on customers as we have seen.

“A company’s capacity to adapt digitally as well as their flexibility in general, are proving to be key data for business survival and profitability” > E-commerce during the COVID-19: what to observe today, and to learn for tomorrow?


Media-influenced buying

From the start of lockdown and restricted movements ’til now, we’ve observed a big change in the way people eat, shop, and live. Since everyone restricted their travel during this period, big expenses were instead made via the internet.

While supermarkets and hypermarkets were stormed by consumers early in the lockdown in order to source needed products, this trend quickly changed.

A Nielsen investigation has identified six key consumer behavior threshold levels that tie directly into concerns around the novel coronavirus outbreak:

“The six threshold levels, based on early indicators across markets (though at different times as the virus outbreak evolves at different rates in different geographies), are detailed below. Each one correlates with different levels of consumption, but there are some common timing elements, which are primarily driven by news cycles.”

In the same article, this graph shows the sales of the four main trending products during the covid-19 crisis, as compared with the last year in the USA.

The increased focus on health is plain to see, but the key takeaway is that the news cycle is influencing consumer behavior. While the virus is a specific kind of event that requires specific actions, the power of the media to influence buying behavior is something that shouldn’t be ignored.

Retailers can capitalize on the current sentiment of health-minded decisions by showing they prioritize care and well-being. This could be showing how your company or store practices good hygiene or offers these services to customers.

Showing that your business is committed to supporting sustainability and community-friendly activities is an effective strategy. This leads us on to another key trend in consumer behavior.


Consumers are supporting local

Buying local is another trend that consumers have come back to during the coronavirus. With the pandemic forcing closures on many businesses, loyal shoppers have shown their willingness to shop locally in order to ensure local retailers stay in business.

This consumer behavior can be seen in both the products and how they have been shopping – from locally-sourced products to supporting stores in the local area.

Connecting locally will thus be key for businesses in the future. From adapting their inventory to meet local demand to engaging in local concerns, retailers should be looking at ways they can connect locally with their customer base.


Virtual spaces are the new normal

More and more people are working from home or remotely and are happy to do. According to Accenture, 46% of people who never worked from home before now plan to do so more often in the future.

Therefore, there are a growing amount of virtual spaces developing, both in terms of working and consumer habits. People are embracing new technology to meet their needs more than ever before. With Zoom connecting families together in the midst of periods of isolation, people have shown their willingness to bring technology into their personal lives.

Retailers can capitalize on this shift in consumer behavior by showing their willingness to offer new technological solutions to customers. If you have an idea to use an app or digital-only service to promote a product then there’s never been a better time.


Conclusion

COVID-19 is both a health and economic crisis that has impacted on consumer behavior and purchasing patterns. Retailers can capitalize on this by understanding these developing behaviors and building it into their marketing/website strategy.

In the comments below share your experiences with us or give us your views on changing consumer behavior. Have you noticed a changing consumer behavior during the pandemic?


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