Consumer buying habits are going through a paradigm shift. Brands of all stripes are being forced to adapt to a world of isolation, scarcity and supply chain limitations. This isn’t to say everything is doom-and-gloom, though. Like most things, consumers and brands are adapting and evolving.
E-commerce has filled the void of physical storefronts. Delivery apps are going off the charts and restaurants are delivering alcohol in some states. So what does the data look like? Will these buying habits stick after the quarantine has passed?
6 Key Consumer Behaviors
Nielsen identified six key consumer behaviors connected to COVID-19 and quarantine. These behaviors were directly informing what consumers shopped for:
- Proactive, health-conscious buying like preventative health or wellness products
- Health management purchases like masks and hand sanitizer
- Household essentials and food
Accompanying those purchases, Nielsen identified key strategies consumers were taking to cope with quarantine:
- Making fewer trips to the grocery store
- Making fewer shopping trips while experiencing limited availability
- Creating a structured, daily routine
What do these behaviors say about consumers? We’re all preparing for a long stay in quarantine. Returning to “business as usual” will take longer than originally predicted.
COVID-19: Our Insights
The current “normal” looks like quarantine and social distancing. That doesn’t mean it’ll always be this way. But we—as consumers—are forever changed. In any case, COVID-19 has created a paradigm shift in consumer buying behavior. Here are a few insights we’ve gathered.
E-Commerce Rises to the Occasion
With retailers forced to close, e-commerce is now the only way customers can purchase products outside of non-essentials. Online orders have skyrocketed since February, up 108% year over year. 😳
We’re not surprised by this. Consumers want to limit their outside exposure as much as possible, so e-commerce is the solution. COVID-19 has made the digital marketplace the only place to be for any business to stay alive. Missing out could be disastrous for any business owner.
Bulk-Buying Shifts to Comfort-Buying
Early in the COVID-19 outbreak, panic-buying was overrunning supply chains and big-box retailers alike. If you walked into a grocery store in mid-March, toilet paper, bread and hand sanitizer were nowhere to be found.
Now that we’re past the initial shock of quarantine, COVID-19 has morphed buying habits even further:
- Boxed hair dyes and trimmers are disappearing from shelves.
- Loungewear and “stay-at-home-chic” fashion are gaining steam in searches.
- Luxury brands, however, are losing traction.
These trends point to buying habits shifting from a pace of immediacy to more conscious spending. With no place to go and Zoom replacing the office, comfort has taken over. Non-essential businesses like salons, barbershops and boutiques are closed for the foreseeable future, so consumers are turning to DIY alternatives of these traditional services.
Brand Loyalty Loses
According to a Shopkick survey, consumers said brand names no longer mattered to them as long as they could find the items they needed. That’s a major red flag for brand name recognition if ever there was one.
Bulk-buying provides some context for this particular insight. When you need something immediately, your favorite brand may out of stock. In that case, finding the next best item or picking up whatever is available is your best bet. Scarcity makes it hard to stay loyal to a brand—if it’s on the consumer’s mind at all. To make up for that, brands will need to pivot to what makes their offering unique.
Delivery Becomes Necessity
Instacart, Shipt and plenty of other delivery apps are swarming with customers. What was once a luxury for most has become a necessity for all. Much like how e-commerce has taken the place of brick-and-mortar shopping, delivery services have replaced trips to the grocery store, date nights at restaurants and outings with friends at bars.
To back that up, March 15 marked an unprecedented day for delivery apps, with downloads up by three-figure percentages compared to February! With record-breaking demand, the strain on these app companies comes down to two factors—manpower and supply chain. Restaurants that previously shunned apps like UberEats and GrubHub are now relying on them just to survive.
Shifting consumer buying habits are a sign of the times. In this case, times are uncertain, so consumers follow suit. Quarantine and social distancing have created a paradigm shift in how consumers approach a purchase, and there’s really no denying it. While the pandemic will pass, it’s not entirely clear if consumer buying habits will ever be the same.
Every industry has felt the impact of COVID-19, even if it’s not obvious on the surface. But before you throw in the towel, there are still opportunities for growth. Consumers are flocking to the digital marketplace to get what they need. If you haven’t already, your business needs to have a digital presence to meet your customers where they are.