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How The Pandemic Has Changed Consumers

While post-ish pandemic discretionary spending continues to ramp up across apparel, domestic travel, experiences and luxury, the consumer’s high-bar expectations for fast, free delivery and returns, along with seamless omnichannel experiences are here to stay. A Year of Agility—What Post-ish Covid-19 Consumer Behavior Looks Like Right Now produced by Coresight Research in partnership with media, analytics and strategic consulting firm January Digital, identifies exclusive new research on consumer behavior and retail priorities.   

Fig 1: Features That Are “Very Important” to US Customers When Choosing a Retailer or Brand to Shop With

The Post-ish Covid-19 Consumer Demands Convenience and Ease

  • As the world comes out of the pandemic, 50% of US consumers expect fast, free delivery to remain when choosing a retailer or brand to shop, while nearly 50% say the same of easy, free product returns for online orders. The ability to view and purchase the same products in-store and online was the other feature that was considered “very important” by more than one-third of consumers (Figure 1). 
  • When broken down further by age demographic, over 34% of US consumers under the age of 45 ranked buy online pick up in-store (BOPIS) and curbside options as “very important” over the ability to view and purchase the same products in-store and online.

“Knowing that the pendulum of recovery has already swung back more quickly than expected, retailers should prepare for increased spending and a customer who is more mobile than ever this holiday season,” Krystina Gustafson, SVP of Content at Shoptalk said. “Consumers expect not only curated product selection, but a deeply personalized experience that is convenient for their lives.”

In a webinar discussing the research and key consumer shopping behavior, Caroline Massullo, VP, Head of eCommerce Marketing at Peapod Digital Labs said, “The pandemic pushed people further towards demanding a channel agnostic experience. Having the same assortment curated in customers’ local stores that is available online with prices that match are baseline expectations. However, in this post-pandemic world where people are getting ‘back to the aisle,’ creating a synergistic approach to foster discovery in-store and pushing to bring that into the eCommerce space needs to be based on a deeply data-informed holistic consumer journey and communication touchpoints strategy. It is absolutely critical.” 

Consumers Want One Brand Experience and Single Accurate Cross-Channel View of Product Availability

  • According to this report, 33.4% of US consumers find the ability to view and purchase the same products across online and offline channels “very important” when determining which brands and retailers to shop with, with another 17.4% saying that it is “somewhat important” to them. 

Who is Spending and What are They Buying?

Lower-Income Consumers Will Get Back to Stronger Retail Spending, While High-Income Consumers Will Keep Spending In Line with Pandemic Levels

  • Low-income consumers plan to spend 18 percentage points more on retail products this summer than they did amid the pandemic, as opposed to mid to high-income consumers, whose retail spending remains flat to mid-pandemic behavior. 

Service and Experiential Spending by High-Income Consumers is Seeing a Sharp Spike

  • Experiential spending is slated to skyrocket with 42% of high-income consumers planning to travel and eat out after they receive vaccinations (a trend which will start to show as early as this month).

Pre-Pandemic Shopping Habits Are Back, But Not All Has Changed

  • The proportion of consumers purchasing clothing products in stores has risen by more than 7 percentage points over the last three months showing a shift back towards pre-pandemic spending
  • However, online grocery – the poster child for pandemic spending shifts – has remained steady and continues to be as relevant as it was during the pandemic with no sign of slowing down.

“Personalization, last mile delivery logistics, localization or BOPIS are not new concepts, but customers are making it clear that getting these conveniences right and making them truly tailored is more important than ever. Be surgical in your approach to understanding what moves the needle for your specific business and lean in,” remarked Tierney Wilson, SVP for Client Strategy & Consulting at January Digital. “Creating agile infrastructures will allow brands to quickly pivot strategies. Whether it is assortment, services or marketing spend, put data at the center of decision making to drive success in the back half of the year.”