New Consumer Behaviors Linked to Coronavirus Pandemic

By Sara Smida / April 20, 2021 / Advertising

As we begin to shift our focus from crisis management to recovery, it’s clear that lockdown and periods of quarantine had a profound impact on how we live.  

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it — in multiple ways. Most notably to marketers, consumers are buying and thinking differently.

By May 2020, we were inundated with daily news briefings recapping what the science community had learned about the virus and what the public needed to do to protect itself.

As the pandemic continues to evolve, uncertainty will likely continue to alter the way humans behave.

Consumers have concerns from health and economical perspectives. And more significantly, they’re thinking about what these purchases can mean for themselves as well as their respective community.

Ways COVID-19 Changed Online Consumer Behavior

Behavior and habit changes can be connected to the extent of exposure that consumers have to a new environment or extenuating circumstance.

From avoiding money because it might carry the virus, to ordering necessities online, our behaviors have changed.

Nationwide shutdowns and stay-at-home orders kept people at home for much of 2020 and into 2021, meaning brands had to change their strategy to meet the needs of their customers — and their business.  

Increases Found in Online Sales & Curbside Pickup

Throughout 2020, consumers spent a total of $861.12 billion on ecommerce sales — which is a large increase from the $598.02 billion that was spent online in 2019.

These sales represent 21.3% of retail sales in 2020, compared to 15.8% in 2019.

The change in behavior is likely a direct result caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as statewide lockdowns were put in order and the fear of contracting the virus kept consumers in their homes and out of physical stores.

Prior to the stay-at-home orders, curbside pickup had been popular, but it soon became a necessity for consumers looking to avoid going inside stores or restaurants.

And many businesses relied on it to keep the doors open.

According to Digital Commerce 360, only 6.9% of the top 500 retailers offered curbside pickup in December 2019. But, by August 2020, that percentage increased to an astounding 43.7%.  

So, it would seem that consumers were doing more than stocking up on toilet paper and cleaning supplies during the year.

In-Person Sale Decreases Found in Brick-And-Mortar Businesses

These online and curbside sale increases, coupled with the pandemic, meant a significant decrease of in-person sales for brick-and-mortar stores.  

According to IBM’s U.S. Retail Index, department stores and other “non-essential” retailers experienced a 25% decline of in-person sales during the first quarter of 2020. That decrease became a 75% decline in the second quarter.

The report suggests that retailers need to pivot their efforts in order to remain competitive in the new environment.

This doesn’t mean that physical locations will be a thing of the past in our lifetime.

But it does mean businesses need to adapt and embrace technology — whether it’s incorporating curbside pickup full-time or looking at an ecommerce strategy.

Embracing Technology & Consuming Content

We are creatures of habits, so when it comes to adjusting and resetting our lives, it can be difficult — like making — then ditching — New Year’s resolutions.

But it’s not impossible to form new habits.

Online orders and curbside pickup aren’t the only changes we have made since the start of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

LinkedIn reported in the first week of April 2020 that users had watched 1.7 million hours of content on LinkedIn Learning. The first week of January 2020 recorded 560,000 hours — that’s more than twice the amount of time spent learning.

This data tells us that accessible and easy-to-consume content is valuable to audiences.

Facebook videos, podcasts, tutorial videos, and so much more can be consumed by current or potential customers.

Doing so showcases your knowledge and gives your brand the authoritative position it deserves.  

Consumers are more likely to respond positively to brands who share a similar behavior — whether the response is making a purchase or telling friends and family about the business.

Even if a customer does not make a purchase, word of mouth, positive reviews, and social interaction can be just as crucial.

Changing for the Future

As consumers continue to adapt, pandemic or not, brands need to adjust their strategy or ways of offering goods and services.

And even though it isn’t certain what the future holds, history and social psychology can give us a glimpse at what’s to come.

Behaviors, attitudes, and spending habits will likely change — especially on younger consumers who are experiencing the pandemic in their formative years.

To meet the evolving needs of your customers, ensure your brand has the capability to quickly shift gears.

If you aren’t sure how to make this happen, contact our team today and let us know.