In March 2020, the world changed forever. A global pandemic was declared, known as Covid-19. Over 600 million people have been infected and 6.4 million have died worldwide according to the WHO, Covid-19 dashboard.
Over time, enforced restrictions have started to ease and life is returning to normal. People are going out. Industries that were badly affected during the pandemic, such as restaurants, leisure, travel, and healthcare, are slowly returning to pre-pandemic traffic patterns.
However, we must also acknowledge the huge changes this has caused. Society has been forever altered by this pandemic. Consumer behavior and the ways they interact with brands — across numerous sectors — have changed. Customers have developed much more conscious shopping techniques and preferences. In this article, we take a closer look at the new types of consumer behaviors and post pandemic trends that have emerged.
How the Covid-19 Pandemic Changed Human Society
At first, humanity suffered collective disbelief, a massive and unprecedented shared trauma, not unlike the first stages of grief.
As a civilization, it's been nearly a century since the last time this happened, when the 1918 influenza pandemic hit, more commonly known as the Spanish Flu.
In many ways, Covid-19 hasn't been as devastating. While even one death is too many, as stated above, the death toll of 6.4 million from Covid-19 has been but a fraction of the 1918 pandemic, estimated to have caused the deaths of anywhere from 25 to 100 million people.
Despite this, the effects of a pandemic are often felt in numerous ways for decades to come. Psychologically, it will leave a scar on this period of human history. Those born before will know how much life has changed. And a whole generation born during and shortly after the pandemic will only know the new norms a pandemic has settled on society.
Changing consumer behavior is one of those new norms. One of the main reasons for these changes is people were forced to stay at home. Restrictions were tighter in some regions than others.
In many countries, whole sectors closed — retail (except for essentials, e.g. food, medicine), restaurants and bars, leisure, travel and hotels — giving people little choice but to stay at home. There was nowhere to go. In other countries, restrictions were more lenient, albeit with limits to the number of people who could enter shops and other establishments. The shopping pattern for billions of people was halted and changed.
How the Covid-19 Pandemic Changed Consumer Behaviors
Understandably, e-commerce and other online services, such as telehealth, took off dramatically. Demand for products across e-commerce channels and platforms surged, as did the number of patients using telehealth products to engage with doctors and medical professionals.
During the pandemic, the healthcare sector needed to focus on Covid-19 patients. At the same time, those with other medical conditions still needed treatment, forcing many to engage with doctors using telehealth solutions. People still needed to shop, and patients still needed to see doctors, but with restrictions in place the internet enabled consumers to access the needed products and services.
For many employees (those not laid off), work shifted online too. Zoom and other online platforms took over face-to-face interactions, and work from home (WFH) became the new norm. Currently, a great debate is going on as to whether employees can continue to work from home or whether they should get back to the office.
Similar to the changes in consumer behaviors, this profound shift would not have happened without the pandemic. Let's take a look at the five new consumer behaviors that have emerged as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
5 Types of New Consumer Behaviors Since the Pandemic
Stay at Home Continues
Despite many safeguards still in place, for some people — especially the elderly and vulnerable — staying in is the new going out. Even those who were more outgoing before the pandemic have been forced to reevaluate their lives.
Two years of staying at home has made them more introverted. Going out is now rare, with delivery services and in-home, digital experiences the preference for this group of consumers.
For those who will continue staying at home, businesses — including healthcare organizations and customer help desks — need to maintain high-quality user-centric online experiences to keep them engaged and retain them as customers.
Tentatively Going Out
Other people, especially since the vaccine and booster program rollout (over 12 billion vaccines have been administered so far) have started going out more. Probably not as much as they did before the pandemic, but enough to start seeing friends, eating out, shopping in stores, and maybe even going to work some of the time.
However, this group of people are walking on eggshells. Still nervous, wearing masks, using hand sanitizer, and keeping a close eye on infection rates. If your business operates in physical locations, be prepared to continue to reassure them while also offering high-quality online services for them.
Again, this group of consumers are more likely to be elderly and vulnerable. So for healthcare providers and customer support teams, making it easy for them to engage with you is crucial.
Back to (Pre-Pandemic) Normal
Some people, on the other hand, have had enough and are tired of the restrictions, or feel more secure about their health prospects.
For this group of consumers, you need to keep providing digital experiences while ensuring your in-person experiences are back to normal. Businesses are working harder to win and retain customers. So, whatever in-person reductions in service you implemented during the pandemic need to be rolled back.
Aim to provide the best possible service in-person and online, otherwise you could quickly lose customers to brands providing the same — or better — service than they did before the pandemic.
Another group of consumers want to get back to normal. However, understandably, they need reassurance. Especially if they're either older, vulnerable, or lost loved ones during the pandemic.
Businesses need to provide these consumers with bridges; ways they can interact with your products or services either safely in-person (e.g. with distancing, masks, and other measures still in-place), or online.
For businesses that sell products in physical stores, giving concerned consumers the ability to "click and collect" is worth considering (buying or ordering online, but collecting curb-side or in-store). This way, customers can minimize in-person interactions while providing brands the chance to reassure them and upsell other products/services; an ideal half-way model format between pre and post-pandemic ways of shopping.
Hybrid Stay at Home/Back to Normal
This group of consumers are similar to the above, except with more confidence that they're safe when going out. Yes, some reassurance or signs that safeguards are in-place is important to them. But at the same time, they're more confident and comfortable going out — just not all of the time.
Continuing to provide high-quality online services for consumers is essential. Especially for customer service and help desk teams, and of course, healthcare providers. Far too many consumers have become accustomed to the comforts and convenience of accessing services from home.
Summary & Key Post-Pandemic Consumer Behavior Takeaways
Businesses that thrive in these new more challenging times would do well to remember the lessons of the pandemic. It has, without a doubt, changed customer behaviors and attitudes, as well as post pandemic marketing trends. People are more reluctant to go out and happier to spend time and money accessing online services. Convenience is more important now than ever before.
At the same time, a potential recession, higher inflation and interest rates are also changing consumer behaviors. Businesses must work harder to win and retain customers, and keep them engaged, loyal, and spending money. A cost-effective hybrid multi-channel approach is the most effective way forward, especially when it comes to engaging the new consumer groups that have emerged because of the pandemic.
5 New Consumer Behaviors to Emerge Since the Pandemic:
- Stay at Home Continues
- Tentatively Going Out
- Back to (Pre-Pandemic) Normal
- Needing Reassurance
- Hybrid Stay at Home/Back to Normal