Major changes in the consumer behavior during COVID-19
Embracing the digital technology
Demand for hygiene and hand care products
Strategies used by retailers to meet change in consumer behaviour
Extension of digital-channel presence and engagement
Bringing an in-store feel
Launching delivery mechanisms
Digital payment and banking
The global economy is whirling under the effect of COVID-19. The experts have now predicted that numerous major economies which are likely to meet towards recession like circumstances along with the federal spending increasing to meet the loopholes in the economy (Gregory, 2021). Having said that, the crisis of Coronavirus is also likely to witness some huge swings in the consumption patterns along with the consumer behavior, particularly in the sector of e-commerce.
It is true that COVID-19 cannot be considered as a normal crisis. As we know that all the components of the economy are intricately interconnected with measures of public health along with the lockdown, this has led in the instabilities in the economies of the countries around the world hinting towards the evolution in the market dynamics. Within each market, consumers are regarded as the driving force of growth, competitiveness and economic segregation. With the disorder in the economy, consumers are too experiencing a variation in behavior. In this paper, we are going to discuss major changes in consumer behavior along with the strategies adopted by the retailers to meet the changing needs of the consumers.
A consumer is an individual who recognizes a desire or need, makes an acquisition and then disposes the product through consumption. With the virus, reshaping the industry of consumer goods within real time, people have started responding in various ways and possess distinct behavior (Accenture, 2020).
Out of sheer obligation, consumers during pandemic have adopted numerous novel technologies as well as their implementations (Mehta et al., 2020). One of the obvious instances is Zoom video services which has played a crucial role in the extension to remote classes and sessions at home to tele-health for virtual consultation with the doctors or physicians. The internet is considered to be a rich source and has reach across the world. social media sites like Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube which has intensely transformed the nature as well as possibility of word-of-mouth instructions and recommendations. This change in the consumer behavior towards technology can be related to the psycho-analytic theories which is a combination of three aspects, id, ego and super ego. The id influences “pleasure, the super ego views the moral aspects and the ego is about go-between, assisting the buyer decide whether to purchase or not.
The enhanced standard of living as well as proliferation in the awareness among the public in relation to the significance of hygiene are a few factors which have powered the growth of industry of hygiene product during COVID-19 (Eger et al., 2021). However, with the outbreak of pandemic, an exemplary growth in the demand for hygiene products have been witnessed. Products such as handwashes and sanitizers can see a huge penetration in the coming days as there will be a rise in the health and safety concerns. This trend of consumer behavior can be related to psychological theories of consumer behavior in which people usually learn out of their experiences and this further helps in determining how they will be acting in future. Psychological theories comprise of stimulus response theory as well as cognitive theories.
At the time of crisis, the usual tendency of the consumers is to postpone the buying and consumption of the discretionary items such as homes, automobiles or any expensive appliances (Loxton et al., 2020). It may also involve some discretionary services such as sports events, concerts, bars and restaurants. Pent up demand is kind of consequence wherein the market access is denied for some specific period for the services like recreation, parks, entertainment and movies having impact on the growth of the GDP. The indifference preference theory which was developed by the economist Vilfredo Pareto, relates to this trend of consumer behavior which states that the preference of consumer for any goods or services is based on the nature of the products and not on the capacity to analyze satisfaction. According to the report of Monitior Deloitte (2020), only 15% of the respondents purchased Telco products like mobile phones at the time of pandemic, as they are not viewed as essential items.
Several years have been spent by the savviest retailers in the creation of omni channel strategies blending physical as well as online channels so that consumers can be engaged in the channel of their selection. With the onset of the pandemic, e-commence sales within departmental stores, apparel and cosmetic products have enhanced by 10% points (Mckinsey & Compamy, 2020).
Shelter-in-place orders have made the firms examine novel ways of engaging consumers. There has been an increase of about 11% in app downloads from January 2020 to April in comparison to same time of last year. Several retailers have created mobile apps and have augmented unmediated consumer interactions with the help of engagement in apps and various other channels. For example, Nike China has activated its digital community by providing virtual workouts which further witnesses an increase of 80% active users weekly (Li et al., 2020).
The inability to involve consumers in the physical surrounding has compelled the retailers to embrace in-store experience online (Sheth, 2020). At first, the major retailers have replaced personalized interaction of in-store with the offerings like virtual appointments wherein the sales executives make use of the platforms of video conferencing for offering personalized attention to the consumers. Live-streaming is used by the retailers for engaging with the customers and increasing revenue along with the loyalty through experiential content. For example, Taobao Live has made brick-and-mortar retailers easier to associate with the channel of live streaming program which has led in the increase of about 719% in participating merchants.
COVID-19 has led in the heightening the significance of safe modes of delivery which mainly include aggregator delivery and curbside pickup (Roggeveen and Sethuraman, 2020). Retailers have scrambled to introduce services for meeting this need. For example, a retailer named Panera, aligned pace and consumer expectations. Within two weeks, Panera planned, developed and introduced a grocery delivery service enabling customers for ordering entrees from the centre firms and add groceries to the integrated online cart. Moreover, when the cafes of the company began to close in effect, the company quickly launched curbside pickup and ordering just in two weeks.
For limiting the contact points at the time of COVID-19 crisis, several retailers from small bakeries to supermarkets have implemented the idea of offering card payment solutions. Amalgamated with consumer consciousness, this rise has resulted in an increase in methods of digital payments.
This era provides numerous opportunities to the marketers for demonstrating their importance for the companies, which impacted either positively or negatively. The current situation must stimulate the researchers to examine the variations in the relevant phases in consumer behaviour. It may be expected that the present developments will result in creating innovations contributing towards a sustainable as well as ethical economy along with the society in the era of post COVID-19.
However, The nest normal still takes time to shape and expectations of the customer will continue taking change in response. All those retailers focusing on the customer experience and responding with innovation and agility in their omni channel experience are expected to perform better and strengthen their bonding with the customers.
Accenture, 2020. COVID-19:How consumer behaviour will be changed. [online]. Available at:https://www.accenture.com/in-en/insights/consumer-goods-services/coronavirus-consumer-behavior-research. Accessed on 29 April 2021.
Eger, L., Komárková, L., Egerová, D. and Mičík, M., 2021. The effect of COVID-19 on consumer shopping behaviour: Generational cohort perspective. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 61, p.102542.
Gregory, J., 2021. The ultimate disruption. [online]. Available at:https://www.epsilon.com/us/insights/core-content/how-covid-19-affects-consumer-behavior-and-marketing-trends Accessed on 29 April 2021.
Li, J., Hallsworth, A.G. and Coca‐Stefaniak, J.A., 2020. Changing grocery shopping behaviours among Chinese consumers at the outset of the COVID‐19 outbreak. Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie, 111(3), pp.574-583.
Loxton, M., Truskett, R., Scarf, B., Sindone, L., Baldry, G. and Zhao, Y., 2020. Consumer behaviour during crises: preliminary research on how coronavirus has manifested consumer panic buying, herd mentality, changing discretionary spending and the role of the media in influencing behaviour. Journal of Risk and Financial Management, 13(8), p.166.
McKinsey & company, 2020. Adapting to the next normal in retail:The customer experience imperative. (online). Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/adapting-to-the-next-normal-in-retail-the-customer-experience-imperative Accessed on: 29 April 2021
Mehta, S., Saxena, T. and Purohit, N., 2020. The New Consumer Behaviour Paradigm amid COVID-19: Permanent or Transient?. Journal of Health Management, 22(2), pp.291-301.
Monitor Deloitte, 2020. Impact of the COVID-19 crisis on short-and medium-term consumer behaviour. (online). Available at: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/de/Documents/consumer-business/Impact%20of%20the%20COVID-19%20crisis%20on%20consumer%20behavior.pdf. Accessed on:29 April 2021
Roggeveen, A.L. and Sethuraman, R., 2020. How the COVID-19 pandemic may change the world of Retailing. Journal of Retailing, 96(2), p.169.
Sheth, J., 2020. Impact of Covid-19 on consumer behavior: Will the old habits return or die?. Journal of Business Research, 117, pp.280-283.
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