How Covid-19 Is Changing Consumer Behavior

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It’s almost 3 months since governments around the world shut down businesses and issued stay-at-home orders for their citizens. Since then, cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) have continued to rise and deaths are mounting in many countries including the United States and Brazil.

While some countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Korea easing shutdown and lockdown measures, retail space as we once knew it has changed considerably. Even with many businesses around the world opening their doors again, the pre-Covid-19 world as we knew it seems to belong in the distant past. This is because months of lockdown and continued infection in some countries have resulted in consumers changing their shopping behavior.

Online Shopping

During the early days of the lockdown, data in many countries show that online shopping was becoming normal for many citizens stuck at home. In data analyzed, there was significant increase in online shopping in March 2020 compared to the previous year. The study also showed that over 40% of shoppers said that they were shopping for things they would normally buy in-store online.

This data reflects what most of us are currently experiencing no matter where we are. Lockdowns and shutdowns have changed our buying behavior from purchasing in traditional stores to buying from online sellers. Page views for online stores are also seeing a jump because many of us are housebound and are just starting to buy many products online.

Moving Past Necessities Phase

While many countries are beginning to ease lockdown measures, many restrictions are still in place. For instance, social distancing restrictions are still in place in some states in Australia. Many believe that health measures like social distancing and wearing face coverings like masks will stay in place even in Covid-19 numbers go down. This is why many online shoppers are moving past the necessities phase of their buying to other categories.

According to studies, page views for toys, games and sporting goods are seeing an increase. As people get used to staying indoors longer, they are looking for ways to entertain themselves and their families. There is also browsing for apparel and accessories but buying is down.

People might not want to purchase new clothes yet since venturing outdoors is usually limited to essential supplies run or they might be waiting until social distancing measures ease.

Priorities Shifting

Before the pandemic started, surveys showed how responders prioritized their needs. The main priorities when buying something were quality (48%), price (47%) and brand (24%). After the pandemic, they were more concerned with availability (49%), price (36%) and quality (34%).

This number makes sense because supply chains around the world were disrupted by the pandemic. When the outbreak started in China in late December of last year, the world had no idea that it would become a worldwide pandemic. As such, many factories in China had to be shut down in order to contain the spread. This has affected the stock not only of medical supplies but also of other products and raw materials.

The chaos of the pandemic has also led to massive panic buying especially when lockdown measures were announced. In Australia for instance, there was a temporary shortage of toilet rolls, hand sanitizers, canned goods and other products with long shelf-life.

Many survey respondents reported that they have experienced product shortage when they tried to make a purchase. It is interesting to see the shift in priorities from quality to availability. This means that shoppers are now trying brands and discovering new products as part of their shopping experience.

What This Means For Retail

It is important for retailers to examine this shift in consumer behavior. Since we don’t know how long the Covid-19 pandemic is going to last, knowing which categories consumers are willing to spend on and what they are prioritizing can help businesses adjust their marketing efforts.

The shift from traditional shopping to online platforms is also accelerating the innovation of ecommerce and many companies and businesses are racing to improve their online shopping experience. Updating product descriptions, hastening delivery services, moving to online selling and other activities are all fueled by changing consumer behavior. It will be interesting to see if shoppers continue to buy online when the pandemic is over.

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