Several months have passed since the coronavirus was first detected and the Covid-19 crisis has still a significant influence on people’s lives and habits. The pandemic, with its mandate lockdowns and business closures, disrupted nearly every routine in our everyday lives and forced consumers everywhere in the world to rapidly change their behaviours, needs, and consequently their spending patterns.
Even though most countries are currently relaxing lockdown restrictions and non-essential businesses are reopening, only 37% of people expect to return to non-essential consumer behaviour before two to three months. And with 93% of people worrying about a second wave of infections in the near future, insecurity and uncertainty will impact how consumers process and respond to information in the new normal. Situational and motivational factors that affect consumer behaviour are rapidly changing nowadays.
Shaping new consumer habits
A person’s set of beliefs and habits can indeed be a key influencer of their consumer behaviour. Behavioural science informs us that, under normal circumstances, people tend to stick firmly (one might say stubbornly) to their beliefs and habits. Deeply rooted in the subconscious mind, beliefs frequently prevent consumers from logically evaluating alternatives. That mainly results in an extremely slow adoption, if any, of anything that entails some behavioural change, even if it can be objectively beneficial to the individual.
Nevertheless, the Covid-19 crisis and the disruptions in everyday experiences it prompted, forced a large number of people to change their consumer habits and beliefs almost overnight. That presents a scarce opportunity for e-commerce companies to identify consumers’ new habits and beliefs, influence consumer behaviour, and position their products and services better for the post-pandemic normal.
During the Covid-19 crisis, even long-held beliefs and habits can change when a consumer gets surprised by how useful and delightful a new experience has been. That can make consumers more willing to repeat that behaviour even when the pandemic will be behind us. Online grocery shopping is an excellent example of that. More than 80 per cent of US consumers that tried online grocery shopping for the first time have been surprised and delighted by the new experience. On top of that, 40 per cent of them intend to continue shopping for groceries online after the crisis.
Reinforcing new beliefs
After you have identified a new behavioural shift, you need to find ways to reinforce the new beliefs it has caused to better position your products and brand. A great way to do that is by focusing on specific moments during the customer journey that have a significant impact on consumers called peak moments. A peak moment can be a customer’s first experience with a product or service, the unboxing of an online order, the check-out process on an online store, and more. Highly emotional occasions like birthdays, graduations, etc. are an excellent opportunity for companies to create compelling peak moments associated with their brand by offering very personalised products and services.
Every e-commerce company must recognise that the consumer journey and customers’ preferred interactions have drastically changed during the pandemic, and so did the peak moments (primarily due to the shift toward online shopping). Therefore, e-commerce companies need to identify these new peak moments and optimise their products, services, marketing campaigns, and customer service accordingly. Your e-commerce company can also reinforce and sustain consumers’ new beliefs by creating new products, services, and marketing messages, tailor-made to consumers’ new habits. You need to innovate to align with consumers’ new needs and spending patterns and remain essential to their eyes.
Which consumer trends will stick?
The heightened emotions of the past few months will most probably create lasting changes to consumers’ long-term preferences. And although making healthier eating choices presumably won’t last now that most restrictions are lifted and fast food joints are reopening, the shift towards digital when it comes to shopping will most probably be permanent. 40% of consumers claim they have now increased their online purchasing mainly due to low pricing and promotions offered. And with 66% of people globally saying that they will keep being conscious about social distancing and continue to avoid busy places after lockdown restrictions are lifted, the negative impact on brick-and-mortar retail will be inevitable.
Another trend that most probably will stick is consumer spending being influenced heavily by a company’s values. Recent surveys show that consumers pay more attention to how companies are treating their employees and tend to prefer the ones that demonstrate care and concern for people and the environment. Additionally, consumers are looking to brands for trustworthiness, support, and advice during these difficult times. The ability of a company’s communication to strike the right tone will be a great advantage that will increase brand loyalty, but only if it rings true. Seeking to commercialise social issues during these challenging times can be a costly misstep.
Financial pressure, safety concerns, and new behaviours that are here to stay have made definite that people will not return to pre-pandemic consumer behaviour any time soon. E-commerce business can benefit from the increasing shift to digital that the Covid-19 crisis has shaped. Kantar’s ongoing global study has found that 45% of consumers are planning to keep using the products and online shops they discover while in lockdown, shifting the loyalty dynamics within the retail industry. Therefore, to thrive in the new normal, e-commerce businesses must develop a strong understanding of their target consumer bases’ rapidly changing beliefs and habits and adjust their products, values, customer experiences, and marketing communications accordingly.