COVID-19 has given birth to new consumer shopping habits and according to recent research, many of which appear to stick around as lockdowns are lifted. That leaves marketers with one question: How can businesses keep up with ever-changing consumer behaviours? As we analyse the recent changes, we’ll be looking for an answer.
Undoubtedly, consumer behaviour has dramatically changed over the past few decades. The digital age revolutionised the ways in which we shop both online and in-store, forever transforming consumer experiences and decision-making journeys.
Remember when Amazon was mostly selling books and Apple’s iPhone was still a novelty? Trusted brick-and-mortar stores were doing well, with the only competition being their immediate next-door neighbours. Long gone are the days! As new generations of consumers have come of age and digital technologies emerged, consumers have become more and more powerful in making their own purchasing decisions – all thanks to the internet.
Online Shopping is Shaping Aussie Industries
As a result, companies have been faced with brand new sets of challenges. In order to survive, business owners had to adapt quickly to this ever-shifting world, fusing online and offline shopping to create satisfying shopping experiences for their customers. Most of them did so very well. Then 2020 came around and we saw in-store shopping crumble under the weight of the pandemic.
Online shopping stats from 2020 worth paying attention to:
- When lockdowns began e-commerce spending saw a 29 per cent month-on-month increase
- More than a quarter of Australians said they shopped online more during 2020
- 73 per cent of households are now regularly shopping online
- 46 per cent of 18-34-year-olds say they plan to continue doing so
- A quarter of Australians say they are now less likely to shop in-store because of positive online experiences they had during the pandemic
The end of physical stores seems near and looking for a culprit, it’s easy to point the finger at COVID. But in truth, there’s a range of factors at play. This development has been long in the making. Whilst the global pandemic has taken a huge toll on many people and required a rapid change of their consumption towards more sustainable spending habits, internet shopping has been around since the early 2000s. So let’s take a closer look at how it all started.
Consumer Behaviour in The Early Days of The Internet
20 years ago, in-store shopping was still the hugely favoured way to spend money. Technology back in the day wasn’t yet advanced enough to support online shopping in its full capacity and neither customers nor businesses seemed ready for the shift. However, closer towards 2010, the technology advancements meant that e-commerce and online shopping could expand exponentially.
The internet brought an abundance of easily accessible information to nearly every household around the country. Consumers could now research brands, compile information about products and compare offers before making a purchase decision. And for the longest time, consumers were favouring a balance between digital and physical shopping experiences.
COVID-19 Brings About New Purchasing Trends
And so things seemed relatively stable for a while. That is until the pandemic forced Aussies into a first lockdown. Many of us had to quickly rethink our consumer behaviour. Stuck in our homes, we were tempted to renovate the living room, start a new arts and crafts project or found ourselves browsing for a new pair of running shoes to keep us both entertained and sane. At the same time, a lot of people lost their main sources of income and had to become more conscious of their spending.
The pandemic has affected various parts of consumer behaviour such as:
- Where we shop
It’s not a secret that people tend to stay closer to home to fulfil their day-to-day needs. During the lockdown, we spent significantly more time at home and the number of people commuting into CBD’s during the week greatly decreased. Having social distance and being unable to catch public transport, we ended up switching from far-away supermarkets to butchers, bakeries and delis.
- How we shop
To keep ourselves and the community safe, we put our masks on and patiently waited in line outside the supermarket when the maximum number of people permitted in stores was limited. We left the cash in our piggy banks and almost exclusively used credit cards. More often than not, we ordered online whatever we could.
Supermarkets such as Coles and Woolworths got wind of the increased need for door-to-door delivery services and began to extend their existing delivery programs. Woolies recently extended its checkout-free offering to 15 stores as part of a wider trial to encourage combined online and real-world buying. It allows customers to scan and pay for products in their basket during their shop using an app.
- What brands we shop for
Many Aussies have become much more focused on buying locally made products by brands they trust. Australian made and owned are increasingly popular. As consumers are more aware of the ins and outs of overseas production and gain a better understanding of supply chains, they seek to support local businesses.
- What we actually buy
Remember the toilet paper fiasco? At the beginning of the pandemic, toilet paper appeared to be rolling off the shelves. Panic-buying in bulk kicked in as soon as people learned of the public health mandate. Driven by fear, who could afford it stockpiled everything and anything, from canned beans and fruit, flour and oats to hand sanitiser.
Source: PWC Consumer Markets Report
New Consumer Habits Will Stick Beyond COVID-19
It’s safe to say that the pandemic has deeply disrupted our lives. The mandated lockdowns and business closures have forced people to give up some of their old habits – something that most of us routinely struggle with when attempted voluntarily (think New Year’s resolutions). It is common for consumers to stick to their buying habits. But as a recent report by McKinsey and the Yale Center for Customer Insights explains: Surprises, whether they’re positive or negative, can change even long-held beliefs.
Consumption is usually consistent and only changes slowly, over time. COVID-19, you might say, was a shock in more ways than one. And many of the consumer behaviours and trends picked up during the pandemic are predicted to stick around. The mass migration to online channels is one example.
While a majority of the world is looking forward to returning to in-store shopping again, it’s not all doom and gloom here in Australia. Many Aussies are able to head over to Bunnings for a weekend (or any day really!) sausage sizzle. Because as we’re well-aware, in-store shopping is more than a business transaction, it’s a whole experience.
Keep Up With Forever Changing Consumer Behaviours
With buying behaviours and purchasing trends constantly changing, it’s time to find a way for your brand to leverage the emerging opportunities. As this global health crisis is holding the world in its grip, your customers expect you to rapidly adapt, show empathy and provide them with individualised service that meets their needs – even when those constantly change.
Here are a few things business owners should keep in mind:
- Reinforce positive new beliefs. Implement a COVID-safe plan that includes alternative payment options and social distancing to make your customers feel safe.
- Conduct research into your target audience to develop valuable consumer insights. Draw on this data to better understand your customers’ needs and effectively market and sell your products and services to the ideal audience.
- Actively shape new consumer habits with your offerings. By quickly adapting to new consumer behaviours your company can leave a lasting impression.
- Match your marketing messages and communications to the new consumer mindset. Aim to satisfy consumer expectations at every touchpoint of the customer journey by aligning with their values and behaviour.
Connecting With Your Audience in The New Normal
COVID-19 crisis has changed our routines and habits, and for better or worse, many of these changes will outlast the pandemic. To best position your brand and thrive in the new and next normal, get in touch with the branding and marketing experts at Anchor Digital. Your partner in climb, we have a nuanced understanding of customer behaviour and the habits of target consumer bases.