The pandemic has resulted in a significant change to the retail landscape, and it’s not just the shift in favour of eCommerce. Consumer behaviour has evolved and the buying public are no longer the same as they were pre COVID-19.

For brands, this presents both challenges and opportunities. Those looking to drive business growth need to adapt - to a new audience, new means of engagement, and an increasingly higher set of expectations.

To do that, we need to understand the effect of the pandemic, not just on the here and now, but moving forward.


The Long Term Impact on Consumer Behaviour

We’re all aware of how change came about. For the best part of a year, we’ve been living with a virus that’s had a profound impact on people's health, wellbeing, and way of life.

But what’s becoming clear is that some of the resulting lifestyle changes are not temporary. For consumer behaviour in particular, there’s a number of surveys that show current trends are set to continue, forever changing the way we shop.

Let’s look at what those trends are:

The Increase in Online Spending

For obvious reasons, there have been far fewer people shopping in-store throughout the pandemic. But despite a light at the end of a very long tunnel, what surveys are showing is a real reluctance to return, with 46% of consumers saying they feel uncomfortable shopping in person.

That’s good news for eCommerce. With no queues or social distancing measures, and of course, no chance of catching or spreading the virus, 86% of consumers have shopped online since the outbreak. The more insightful statistic is that 79% say they’ll continue to shop regularly online in six months time, showing short term changes have impacted long term behaviours.

More insight can be gained from looking at the demographics. Whilst 54% of the general population moved more of their spending online, it’s young consumers that account for the biggest shift, with 67% now shopping more through eCommerce than they did a year ago.

What this means for brands is that their biggest market is a generation of savvy shoppers that expect more from the businesses they deal with. And it’s one of the many reasons why reviews are essential for your brand.

These savvy shoppers seek out review content to see what others think of your products and customer service. If you have an effective strategy in place, online reviews impact click through rate, because consumers perceive you as a brand that lives up to their expectations.

This younger demographic may also account for the increase in mobile shopping, with 50% of global eCommerce sales being through a mobile device. So if you’re not optimised for mobile, you’re missing out.

The Increase in Social Media Use

We’ve seen that it’s the younger generations leading the change in consumer behaviour, and that change extends to how they discover and interact with new brands.

Social media is now hugely influential in this respect, and businesses need to cater for this online audience by making effective use of the most popular platforms.

They also need to account for social conscience, as younger consumers are more inclined to make purchase decisions that have a positive impact on society.

Some key takeaways here:

  • 32% of young consumers that have bought from independents during the pandemic did so to make a difference, and 54% said they discovered these brands through social media. This means up and coming businesses have a window to take a large share of the market.

  • Overall, 28% of young shoppers said they have purchased through social media, and 60% of Instagram users say they find new products through the platform, making this a channel well worth investing in.

  • The phenomenal rise of TikTok use over the past year indicates this is another invaluable platform for small brands to engage with Generation Z.

Essentially, brands need to focus on a number of different social channels and tactics to reach a wider audience and align their marketing efforts with this new breed of consumer.

This approach is at the heart of some of our clients strategies, and it pays off. Brands like Abbott Lyon take control of their online reputation by paying close attention to where their audience spend their time, and the type of content they engage with.

Summary

The pandemic has not just changed how people buy, it’s changed their entire attitude towards consumerism. A younger, more demanding demographic now holds the buying power, and its expectations are high.

To stay relevant, brands need to adapt to the new world of commerce, a world in which their audience are now searching online for a more meaningful buying experience.