What Do Consumers Want From Stores in the COVID-19 Era? Safety, Convenience and a Sense of Community
The spread of COVID-19 has quickly transformed how consumers shop, what they buy and what they want from retailers. And many say these new spending and shopping habits will last long after the crisis lifts. These are a few key findings from Capgemini Research Institute’s "The Consumer and COVID-19" survey of more than 11,000 consumers in the U.S., U.K., EU, India, and China. The recently published report that included the survey results revealed that retailers and consumer product brands that emphasize safety, offer convenience, and show a sense of purpose are in the best position to succeed now and post-pandemic. There may be no going back to the way consumers shopped before the COVID-19 crisis, therefore, let’s look in more detail at some of the survey results and what they mean for consumer product and retail (CPR) companies.
Consumer Spending Priorities Have Changed
In all 11 countries where we conducted the survey, consumers showed a dramatic shift in spending patterns. Nearly a third said they’re spending more now on groceries, personal care products and at-home entertainment. More than half said they’re cutting back on luxury spending, and expect those trends to hold over the next six months to nine months.
CPR companies can cope with these shifting consumer priorities by responding quickly to changes in demand as many shoppers are stocking their kitchens to minimize trips to the store. This approach requires communication with suppliers and logistics partners to get in-demand products to retailers and consumers quickly. It also requires excellent visibility into inventory to give retailers and shoppers accurate product availability information.
Consumers Expect Better Health and Safety Practices
Consumers said they want shopping experiences that support social distancing and reduce the need to touch surfaces. The majority of survey respondents said they prefer to shop with retailers that adopt in-store safety practices, including:
- altered store layouts to encourage social distancing;
- mobile-based self-checkout systems; and
- contactless payments at the point of sale.
In-store is not the only place where consumers want a safer experience. Half of respondents said they prefer to purchase from businesses that offer contactless delivery, for example.
Consumers don’t expect their safety preferences to change much over the next six months to nine months. This means that these new shopping options may become standard practices that change the baseline for consumer experience.
Consumers Expect to Shop Online More, Even After Lockdowns End
Since the outbreak began, consumers have drastically reduced in-store visits. Fifty-nine percent of consumers, for example, said they’d had high levels of interaction with physical stores pre-pandemic. That dropped to 24 percent by the time of the survey. As with spending priorities, consumers don't expect to revert to their old habits after the outbreak subsides. Only 37 percent said they expect to engage with physical retailers at a high level six months to nine months from now.
Meeting consumers’ needs now requires an even greater focus on the e-commerce end-to-end customer experience. It also requires a new focus on fulfillment to support local pickup and delivery options.
Consumers Want to Shop With Companies That Show a Sense of Purpose
More than half of consumers surveyed said they want businesses to show a community-minded sense of purpose, and 53 percent said they’ll expect to see it over the next six months to nine months.
Many brands already showcase their community involvement and support for various causes. Now, though, is the time to help with the response to the pandemic. For example, companies that have idle production lines can shift to producing essential medical supplies and equipment.
E-commerce, inventory and fulfillment technology — plus ongoing awareness of consumer sentiment — are the keys to meeting consumer expectations now and for the foreseeable future. Adopting new tools and approaches amid a disruptive event can be a major challenge for organizations. However, rising to meet that challenge is the way forward now for retailers, consumer brands and the customers they serve.
Brian Wolfe is the vice president of commerce and the digital customer experience leader at Capgemini in North America, a global consulting firm.
Brian Wolfe is VP of Commerce and Digital Customer Experience Leader at Capgemini in North America, a global consulting firm.
He has over 20 years of experience working with technology and consulting organizations. Brian co-founded two technology firms that were sold to public companies and has held a broad range of roles and responsibilities including President, Vice President, CTO, and CIO. Brian has been a frequent speaker at technology industry events and has been a member of numerous partner advisory boards.
Brian earned a BS in Computer Science from the University of Michigan, an MS in Computer Science from DePaul University and a Certificate in Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Brian currently serves as a member of the advisory board for DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media. Brian enjoys running, working out in the gym, enjoying time with his family in the city, and rooting for the Chicago Bears.