As cases of the coronavirus surge across parts of the U.S., consumers are still assessing when, where and how they shop. COVID-19 is fast-tracking underlying retail trends and restructuring some business models. People see brands differently as new habits take root now and possibly well beyond the end of the pandemic.
By analyzing and embracing the changes now, businesses can better prepare for what’s on the horizon. And while consumer expectations and behavior can vary by state and region, clear trends have developed nationally over the last five months:
A Surging Shift to E-Commerce and Click-and-Collect Options
Online shopping has seen explosive, unprecedented growth since COVID-19 hit. According to Bloomreach’s State of Commerce Experience study, 50 percent of customers are going digital to find products they’ve never bought online before.
Many consumers also say these new habits will continue after the outbreak. According to data from Dotcom Distribution’s 2020 E-Commerce Consumer Survey, nearly a third of respondents expect to continue making more online purchases than they did before the pandemic. In regards to restaurant purchases, 29 percent believe they’ll choose carryout more often moving forward.
Businesses adjusting to this new “digitally-focused” normal will be the best equipped to weather the storm and emerge in a strong position in the days that follow the pandemic.
A Renewed Focus on “Shopping Local”
There are many factors influencing consumers’ decision to shop local right now:
- They aren’t traveling as much as they did pre-COVID-19, relying more on local, independent stores for basic needs.
- Some are choosing to shop local to support their community and its small business owners.
- Whether true or not, there is the perception of local goods being safer and less likely to be contaminated.
Local small businesses can capitalize by building loyalty through personalized and efficient service. Businesses should also find ways to further connect with their community—by highlighting their history on social media, customizing their offerings to better meet consumers’ current needs, or by engaging in local events.
Cautious Discretionary Spending
New research reveals many consumers still desire to make non-necessity purchases.
- 36% have made an impulse purchase based on an advertisement since the pandemic began.
- 65% of consumers said they’ll make an unplanned purchase within the next month as a personal treat.
Americans haven’t entirely cut non-essential purchases, but the amount spent and the frequency at which these purchases are made has changed.
Saving money is a priority for most people amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic, meaning promotions and deals can be effective in driving non-essential spending.
- 46% of consumers say they’re paying more attention to advertisements that offer promotions and deals compared to before the pandemic.
- Offers or discounts are now the biggest driver in trying a new store or restaurant.
Businesses must understand the changing influences on consumer spending and offer a variety of products and/or services at different price points to continue to be appealing in this increasingly risk-averse climate.
Loosened Brand Loyalties
- 28% of consumers reported moving away from Amazon as their preferred online marketplace after the retail giant changed its shipping policies.
- 44% of U.S. shoppers have also tried at least one new brand during the pandemic because their usual choice was either unavailable or would take too long to be delivered.
These shifting loyalties present pivotal opportunities for businesses. A negative buying experience can rarely be undone. In fact, Bloomreach’s State of Commerce Experience study found that 53 percent of customers will not buy from a business after a negative experience.
A positive shopping experience, on the other hand, can quickly turn customers into brand ambassadors. The buzz they can generate on their social media accounts can prove invaluable in the current spending climate. To improve the e-commerce buying experience, many businesses are adding how-to videos, virtual try-on technology, free shipping and gifts with purchase.
The COVID-19 outbreak is expected to have a lasting impact on consumer spending behavior. Businesses must be innovative and agile to adapt to the evolving needs of their target audience. This may include exploring new marketing channels, reevaluating a promotional calendar, adjusting prices, or adding to a product and service portfolio.
Now is the time to invest in resources to help you better understand what current and prospective customers now expect of your business. Contact Baer Performance Marketing to get started today!