How Has the Pandemic Changed Consumer Behavior?

Published August 13th, 2021 - 09:00 GMT
How Has the Pandemic Changed Consumer Behavior?
While sales of hygiene and cleaning products, healthy foods and coffee, and vitamins and supplements saw an increase, the changes in consumer behavior brought with it challenging times for some industries. (shutterstock)

The world is always changing, but nothing comes close to the rapid changes that the pandemic brought on. Whether it is how we work, live or travel, people are beginning to reconsider their priorities, and opt for ways that better align with the new restrictions and constraints the pandemic has imposed on all of us. Hence, the change in consumers’ behavior in the last couple of years that we clearly see, and the change in shopping patterns among the masses.

So the question is, how has the pandemic changed consumer behavior? And will some of these changes remain even after the pandemic? 

According to the International FMCG/CPG Report 2021, between 44% and 83% of consumers in all markets say that their shopping habits have changed. One key reason is because more and more people are beginning to shift to online shopping. It is reported that the number of online shoppers has increased by 4.4% from 2020 to 2021 (until Feb 2021). This is largely due to the double-whammy effect that the pandemic and digital transformation has induced. With people having to stay indoors, self-isolate and minimize human interaction, it is only normal for many to start turning to online shopping. Not only has the pandemic changed how people intend to shop, but it has also made planned shopping more popular. Germany, France and Denmark were among the countries that showed an increase in planned shopping from 2019 to 2020 with a 19%, 17% and +17% increase, respectively. 

But shopping is not the only thing that is becoming online, because many are spending more time on online leisure activities. It is reported that since the start of the pandemic more people are watching TV. This is brought on due to increased unemployment rates and lockdowns. Furthermore, the pandemic gave people the chance to take a look at their lives and realize the importance of their health. Which comes to explain the significant increase in the number of subscribers using digital fitness apps since the start of the pandemic. With the amount of stress and mental health distress that the pandemic brought, more people are beginning to spend their time reading and taking care of their mental health. With all these behavioral changes, it is quite apparent that people are starting to spend more time on experiences and health rather than on materialistic things. 

While sales of hygiene and cleaning products, healthy foods and coffee, and vitamins and supplements saw an increase, the changes in consumer behavior brought with it challenging times for some industries. For instance, 32% of people say that they are buying fewer cosmetic products. With people working and spending more time at home, many chose to skip on buying cosmetics that they know they won’t be using now. Not only that, but when it comes to buying cosmetics, most people want to test the products before making a purchase, and with everything being done online, this proved to be a challenge. However, it is in challenging times that innovative and groundbreaking ideas come to life! And that is exactly what some retailers like Sephora and Watsons did in Singapore; they started using AI apps that allows their consumers to virtually apply products to their pictures before buying them. 

In Singapore, cosmetics sales have increasingly moved online due to the pandemic. To overcome consumer desire to test cosmetics products prior to purchase, retailers such as Watsons and Sephora have started rolling out AI apps which can be downloaded on mobile. These apps have helped to overcome the limitations of in-store testing of colors by allowing consumers to upload their photos and virtually trial products on themselves before committing to the purchase." - Fang Ying Goh, Associate Director - Singapore

But the cosmetics industry was not the only one that was significantly impacted, because local brands were also suffering with lockdowns. And that is why it is reported that consumers plan to buy from local shops and help resuscitate their local economy. In addition, more people are beginning to finally see that in order to protect our world, people have to move towards buying more sustainable products that can help protect the planet. Around 54% of consumers in a survey say they are planning to do so.  

This transition and adaptation to online shopping means that the shift to online shopping is most likely here to stay. Therefore, this means that retailers and businesses have to step up their game and make sure they are keeping up with what the consumer wants in today’s world. This will mean adopting new and innovative approaches that fit the experience the customer is asking for in a world that is becoming more digital by the day. 

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