At a time when everything seems completely haywire, one thing is for certain, consumer behavior has shifted significantly and only time will tell which behaviors will stick for the long run. Regardless of region, these behaviors have been fairly consistent according to a recent episode from eMarketer’s Behind The Numbers podcast. Here’s what we’re seeing across the board:
This has happened to a varying degree around the world as the result of different forms of government. In Asian and most European countries, governments are more centralized; so, making swift nation-wide decisions around (ie. travel restrictions, businesses/school closures, large gatherings, etc.) has been more effective than in countries like the United States that have a decentralized government structure whereby states make individual decisions for their residents. It’s not the only reason, but it is a big reason why the USA may be harder hit than other nations.
This is largely the result of two changes:
1) As major non-essential retailers have closed their doors, shopping online has become the only option and 2) Even though essential retailers such as grocers are open, people who can afford grocery delivery are doing so to avoid exposure to the virus. Additionally, in regions like the USA where food and beverage delivery from private restaurants and larger franchises like QSRs has been deemed an essential service, delivery of those items has grown in popularity. Another category seeing growth beyond capacity is meal kit delivery service such as Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, etc.
COVID-19 has brought awareness to something we don’t typically consider - how many germs live on the cash we use to buy everyday needs. As a result, there has been a significant lift in credit card usage both on e-commerce and in-store. Additionally, greater consideration has been seen for contactless payments via mobile wallet usage whereby a consumer can simply hover their phone over a credit card machine to make a payment.
It’s no surprise that consumers stuck at home have been resorting to more screen time. Be it for education, entertainment, physical activity, or news consumption the growth of eyes on digital channels has been exponential across the globe.
We have seen consumers going out of their way to stock up on things they deem a necessity. Across the globe this has included toilet paper, canned goods, PPE (personal protective equipment), etc. At the same time, with financial recession and potentially depression on the horizon, some consumers are also trying to be fiscally conservative. As a result, consumers are less likely to make luxury purchase decisions, especially those with a heavy price tag now and in the near future. Additionally, we’re seeing more delivery delay time tolerance among consumers. US consumers in particular are used to 1-2 day shipping and typically do not convert if they feel shipping times are nebulous; however, unstable product supply has caused this consumer behavior to be eliminated almost entirely.
While we cannot know what consumer behaviors will definitely stick and which will dwindle, we can plan for what today’s consumer needs based on their behavior. As mentioned, this is not a time for set-it-and-forget-it marketing; rather, marketers must vigilantly stay abreast of the government decisions and healthcare advancements that impact consumer behavior day-to-day and recalibrate accordingly.