5 Ways COVID-19 Has Altered Consumer Behavior

Awareness of changing preferences will help retail brands respond beyond the crisis.

Rebecca Paul

The COVID pandemic has thrust upon many parts of the world a rapid acceleration of digital adoption. As consumers continue to embrace the convenience of new digital tools, their expectations around the digital shopping experience are evolving. Looking at how consumers are feeling and engaging with companies in light of the COVID-19 pandemic will help brands and retailers plan customer-centric strategies that track with existing changes, while also anticipating future needs. Below we’ve outlined five ways that consumer expectations have changed over the past six months.

1. They prefer digital solutions and contactless purchasing options. Consumers’ preferences have shifted, and in the post-COVID climate, expectations around digital transactions will remain altered. The appeal of digital wallet and contactless payments is rooted in convenience and safety and sets the bar for other retail transactions. CX efforts should be focused on developing holistic digital shopping experiences that replicate all in-store activities.

2. They are more interested in new hobbies and at-home entertainment. As reopening plans remain unstable, consumers are doing their best to optimize their time at home. The “new essentials” category is driving many of these new habits. Pivoting products and services to better represent these interests should be explored and promoted.

3. They expect retailers and brands to expand into the service economy. With telemedicine as the most widely used example, consumers are getting more comfortable accessing professional services via Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. Leveraging video, traditionally non-service-oriented companies are finding new ways to provide value for customers. Examples: Furniture companies offering interior design services; baby apparel brands providing guidance on preparing for a newborn.

4. They are more interested in local shopping opportunities. COVID-related stay-at-home orders have threatened the livelihood of many local businesses and ignited consumer interest in supporting these neighborhood staples. Larger companies can align with the “shop local” movement by finding innovative ways to work with small businesses. Example: West Elm Makers, a program through which West Elm promotes local artisans alongside their standard catalog.

5. They appreciate brands that have focused on their needs during the crisis. Brands that have been sensitive to changing consumer sentiment have earned customer loyalty over others less vocal about addressing fear, anxiety, and other COVID-related realities. When customers feel the relationship goes beyond selling product, their engagement and, more importantly, their trust increases. Innovative partnerships can offer both brands and consumers added assurances and points of connections. Example: Hilton’s partnership with Lysol and the Mayo Clinic to create the CleanStay program in its hotels.


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