Customers browse, buy and spend much differently today than they did in 2019. The upheaval of 2020 has led to fast-changing preferences and demands, and businesses across a variety of industries are taking note of major shifts in consumer behavior. As companies of all sizes search for ways to build trust and interact in new ways with their customers, here are five trends to note:
Buying Is Moving Online—And That’s Not Expected To Change Even After The Pandemic Ends
Consumers limited by stay-at-home and social distancing orders are making lots of online purchases, and that could turn into a habit: A McKinsey study showed that many consumers plan to continue online buying even after the crisis passes. In particular, the study found that items like over-the-counter medications, groceries, household supplies and personal care products experienced a more than 30% increase in online purchasing. Food takeout and delivery, fitness and wellness, vitamins and supplements and non-food child products also experienced significant increases. And as December approaches, another study shows that almost half of Americans planned to spend more online than in stores for the holidays.
What’s Not Moving Entirely Online Is Moving To Low- Or No-Touch Transactions
An EY survey showed that contactless payment appeared to be consumers’ preferred method when making purchases from a brick-and-mortar store. More than half of respondents also reported using less cash. Grocery store customers are increasingly embracing self-checkout lanes and cashierless stores. Retail shops are offering curbside pickup. Many restaurants have turned to QR codes instead of paper menus, paper plates instead of ceramic and takeout bags lined up on tables outside the front door for customers to grab themselves. You can even buy a car without walking into a dealership.
All Business Must Follow Health and Cleanliness Guidelines—And Must Also Communicate Those To Customers
A study by Deloitte recommended that companies prioritize safety essentials (such as increased cleaning and disinfecting), allow customers more control of their own experiences (such as providing hand sanitizer and wipes for shopping carts) and heighten transparency (for instance, increasing proactive cleaning measures that customers can see). Businesses should also ensure the safety of their employees: 82% of surveyed customers said those measures “must be in place” or “would make (them) more likely” to visit a business. Many hotels and rentals, in particular, have emphasized increased cleanliness and opportunities for contactless check-in, hoping customers will feel safe enough to return to traveling.
Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) Buying Is Increasing
With online shopping booming, more brands are finding it necessary to sell directly to consumers. Major food and beverage brands, in particular, have been finding that customers would rather bypass grocery stores and buy their favorite products directly from brand websites, where they can be more assured of availability. Only about a fifth of DTC brands surveyed by Totem Media this summer said their sales had declined—compared with four-fifths of traditional retailers.
Brand Loyalty, However, Is Decreasing
A consumer survey showed that half of all respondents had tried new brands and products since the start of the global health crisis. Not surprisingly, customers who experienced problems or delays reported less brand loyalty. McKinsey tied much of the drop to supply chain disruptions, and one of its surveys found that 75% of U.S. respondents had tried a new retailer or brand—citing value, availability and convenience as major reasons. Another survey found that almost half of consumers have already changed their brand preferences and even more expected permanent changes. Also, 88% said it was more important than ever for businesses to behave in an ethical manner. These fast-evolving customer preferences and demands are likely to shape the economy for years to come.