How COVID-19 Forced Us to Change

From how we work, eat, and enjoy life, here’s a near one year look into how COVID-19 has irrevocably changed our consumer behavior.

Will the world ever go back to the way it was?

That’s the burning question on everyone’s minds. But with the COVID-19 pandemic raging on for nearly a year now, does the old “normal” still even exist?

Despite the incalculable human loss and economic devastation, this pandemic has taught us that we can adapt even in the darkest scenarios.

Millions are working remotely from home. Delivery and curbside pickup are now common practice. We’re venturing outside of our homes much less and are learning how to appreciate being self-sufficient homebodies.

As consumer habits change, businesses must evolve to meet them. By recognizing these new fundamental changes, businesses can better position themselves to engage their consumers in this brave, new world.

Insight #1: Value-focused shopping

The fact that Amazon doubled its profits during the pandemic reveals how fervently addicted we are to material consumption.

But instead of buying frivolous items, we’re now hyper-focused on purchasing items that hold more value. More than ever, value has become the biggest deciding factor for consumers.

According to a McKinsey survey, consumers in the U.S and Canada have drastically cut back on big-ticket items like new cars, consumer electronics, and jewelry. Instead, North American consumers are unsurprisingly more concerned with buying groceries, cleaning supplies, pet supplies, and even books.

The McKinsey survey also drew a strong correlation between consumer spending habits and the level of optimism of a country’s economic conditions.

In China, where the COVID-19 situation is very stabilized, optimistic citizens are back to buying luxury items like hotel stays, new cars, apparel, and jewelry.

But with India, despite exploding COVID-19 cases, apparel sales are rising as consumers prepare for the upcoming festival, Diwali, and the wedding season, which lasts from October to December.

Insight #2: The Great Digital Migration

After value comes convenience.

Unsurprisingly, overall online sales have skyrocketed since the pandemic, with food and household categories seeing an average of 30 percent growth in online customer orders. But the majority of these extra online sales come from new users who have never used e-commerce sites like Amazon before.

Driven by necessity from widespread lockdowns, older generations, particularly, baby boomers are testing out Amazon and grocery delivery services like Instacart in record numbers. This new crop of tech-savvy users will likely continue to use online services even after the pandemic.

As the winter holidays approach, 70 percent of North American consumers have reported that they plan on completing all of their holiday shopping online.

Insight #3: Changes in customer loyalty

Customer loyalty isn’t what it was. The pandemic's early panic-buying days caused critical strains and shortages to the supply chain, pushing consumers to find out-of-stock items from brands and stores they normally wouldn’t shop from.

As more financial worries set in, consumers are also prioritizing price over company loyalty. To survive, businesses should be doing everything they can to broadcast and promote their services and goods through online channels.

Consumers are also actively looking for brands whose values align with health, hygiene, and safety — favorably looking at businesses that offer conscientious methods of interaction like curbside pickup, virtual appointments, and contactless payment options.

Insight #4: Supporting local businesses

Perhaps no one has been hit harder economically by this pandemic than small business owners. Lacking the capital reserves to weather the storm, thousands of businesses from restaurants, salons, yoga studios, tattoo parlors have shut down indefinitely.

In a humanity-restoring move, consumers have responded by consciously choosing to buy from local businesses whenever possible.

In turn, local businesses should make efforts to connect with their local community by posting highly visible thank-you signs, building loyalty/new customer referrals programs, mentioning customer appreciation via social media, and continuing to deliver excellent customer service.

Insight #5: Craving entertainment

Never before have there been so many people staying at home all at once.

To escape feelings of inevitable boredom, consumers have turned towards digital streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and others for a welcome distraction. Video game consoles and game sales have also shot up. But it’s not just technology-driven entertainment that consumers are craving but also traditional formats such as books and magazines.

In the last week of March 2020, the BBC reported that fiction book sales alone increased by a third, and children’s educational books went up by 234%.

Insight #6: Surges in mobile phone use

According to data from phone service providers, mobile phone use has surged during the pandemic.

Some interesting insights include:

  • 37% of mobile users reported texting more.
  • Overall, video calling is up by 32%
  • 36% of mobile users are using more social media
  • 23% of mobile users are using more shopping apps

In light of this data, businesses can better reach consumers by focusing their marketing ad strategies on mobile, social media, and video-streaming platforms.

Insight #7: Anxiety and depression on the rise

Single people are another sizeable population segment that has been hit hard by pandemic shutdowns. Being more vulnerable to loneliness, the single population can experience heightened feelings of anxiety and depression brought on by prolonged isolation periods.

More than ever, people are logging into social media to fulfill that intrinsic yearning for a human connection.

More time spent indoors can also translate to more time spent watching the news, which can trigger and worsen alarmist and negative thinking.

Businesses can reduce the pandemic's negativity by focusing on value, positive social awareness, and authenticity. This can be as simple as updating consumers with new company health and safety guidelines and ways to connect online through social media.

Insight #8: The challenges of e-commerce

It’s one thing to set up your online store and an entirely separate thing to market yourself to the right consumers.

Many savvy businesses have made the online transition only to discover new challenges on the digital frontier.

The top three problems that new e-commerce businesses are facing during the pandemic are:

1.) Retaining new customers obtained during the pandemic

2.) Standing out from the competition

3.) Improving business operations to meet demand and generate profitability

Insight #9: The 6 stages of consumer behavior

Do you remember what it felt like one week into lockdown? We all felt the gears of the world’s economy halt to a slow lurch. Deserted roads. Empty shopping malls. Where there was always ambient noise was now an empty stillness. At first, the global radio silence was unnerving and unnatural.

But after a month or two, the state of inertia coupled with mask-wearing, constant sanitizing, and distancing became surprisingly normalized.

Market research company Nielsen outlined the 6 consumer behavior levels as:

  1. Proactive health-minded: The early days when COVID-19 cases were remote. Inklings of concern, but consumers are still taking a wait and see approach.

2. Reactive health-minded: As COVID-19 deaths are being reported, fearful realization sets in with panic-buying surging for items like masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper.

3. Pantry preparation: As the possibility of lockdown looms, consumers begin stockpiling perishables, non-perishables, and frozen foods.

4. Quarantined living preparation: Consumers shop beyond essentials and start thinking about entertainment and health solutions—baking supplies, home office equipment, fitness equipment, and digital streaming sales all surge.

5. Restricted living: Pandemic fatigue sets in as COVID-19 precautions begin to fluctuate as high-risk and low- risk areas are identified.

6. Living a new normal: Everything is normalized now. We’ve reached a point where we’ve adapted and compromised our way of living to the whims of the pandemic.

Insight #10: Waste not. Want not.

With many people experiencing financial hardships, this pandemic has made us more mindful of not wasting food.

Businesses can succeed by signaling to consumers that they are on the same page regarding sustainability and value.

Insight #11: Vacationing during COVID-19

As airline revenue falls by 90 percent, people are hitting the road again with good, old fashioned road trips.

Both economical and safe, consumers are exploring nearby locales to escape the monotony of pandemic shutdowns.

Insight #12: New appreciation for loved ones

40% of millennials reported moving back with their parents, and 52% of young adults said they’re now living with their parents due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In these extremely challenging times, the silver lining is that we’re rediscovering our love and appreciation for our loved ones by simply spending more time with our families and friends.

Does your business need help to build its digital foundation?

At Paramount Sales & Marketing, we’re a full-service Toronto agency specializing in helping businesses reach their digital potential.

Start with a free consultation.

Contact us today for a free consultation and ask us about our special COVID-19 compassionate pricing. 1–800–545–8619 or email us at info@psmkg.com.

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Jack Tran

Jack Tran

Hi kind stranger! Thanks for stopping by. Check out my articles that span from vulnerable self-analysis, UX research and technology trends.