Will We Witness a Shift in Consumer Shopping Behavior Post-COVID-19?
It's no secret that COVID-19 has transformed how we communicate and interact with each other. Maintaining social distancing guidelines put forth by the CDC has shifted the way that we live our daily lives, but it's not limited to wearing masks and standing six feet apart. One of the most significant changes has been in consumer shopping behavior.
Never before have we witnessed so many people panic-purchase and stockpile products at this magnitude. However, once the store shelves went bare, people turned to the internet to buy out e-commerce supplies, too. Some shoppers were already familiar with this option, but for others, it was their very first time relying so heavily on e-commerce stores.
It's fair to say that a pandemic will influence human behavior, but what does it look like for the long term? Research suggests that shopping behavior may be altered for good.
What Are People Buying?
During the earliest days of the pandemic, people flocked to retail stores to stock up on essential items like nonperishable foods, cleaning products and, surprisingly, toilet paper. People immediately hoarded hand soap, hand sanitizer, and face masks. Once the products were wiped out of stores, consumers went to e-commerce platforms, leading to a significant spike in online retail.
The health and beauty industry has seen sales increase a whopping 86 percent, while food and beverage has increased traffic by 80 percent. This proves that people aren't simply waiting for store shelves to be restocked — they're searching out other means to meet their demands.
It's critical to understand that as people settle into their new pandemic-style life, they've transitioned out of panic buying and instead are focusing on entertainment purchases. Still, the method remains consistent — online platforms are the preferred one-stop-shop.
Retail Stores in Slow Decline
While COVID-19 may not be solely responsible for the so-called "death of retail," the months-long pandemic wont help. According to Forbes, traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores have been in trouble for over a decade, and online shopping has consistently become a preferred channel for consumers. As the virus requires more and more nonessential stores to shut down, it simultaneously has overwhelmed essential stores, which we see in bare shelves and an inability to meet supply and demand.
Potential Long-Term Implications
People are changing their buying behavior out of necessity. Brands and quality matter less than ever before because consumers are simply searching for available products. Some people are learning that the brands that they've been most loyal to perhaps don't have the advantages that they thought. USA Today explains that it's not only how we purchase, but also what we purchase that's going to influence the big picture for consumerism.
Additionally, consumers who may have preferred brick-and-mortar stores are learning for the first time that online stores may be faster and easier, especially platforms such as Amazon.com that offer free and fast shipping. There are decidedly some disadvantages to physical locations such as long lines, more germs, and fewer product options, all of which are issues that won't disappear once the pandemic goes away.
What may have started as necessity buying may prove to be an additional step towards our society becoming totally reliant on online shopping. We've learned it's faster, easier and healthier to purchase from the comfort of our homes.
Ronn Torossian is CEO and founder of 5W Public Relations, a top-10 independent, full-service PR agency in the U.S. known for cutting-edge programs that engage with businesses, issues and ideas.
Ronn Torossian is CEO and Founder of 5W Public Relations, a top 10 independent, full-service PR agency in the U.S. known for cutting-edge programs that engage with businesses, issues and ideas.
He is a crisis management expert who has more than 20 years of experience working with national and international brands that go through disruptive and unexpected events that threaten to harm the organization or its stakeholders.