Are changes to consumer behavior permanent?

IN THEORY: Some business magazines are predicting that the changes in consumer behavior, brought about because of the pandemic, are permanent. I would argue that’s not true for everything.

As a marketer, you probably know that consumers have changed a lot of how they shop and buy brands. An MIT report found more than 54% of people recently made purchases from new brands. The most frequently cited reasons included “favorite brand out of stock” and “willingness to try new brands.”

The other huge trend is the shift to online shopping. 93% of customers read online reviews before buying a product but those purchases are not always online. So the question is:

“Will the shift from offline to online shopping go back to normal after COVID-19, or is this really the new normal?” 

One scenario could be that consumers who were used to doing all their shopping in physical stores have gone through a personal transformation and will not return to their old shopping habits. 

When asking the respondents about this, 60% of the respondents in the U.K., and 58% of the respondents in Germany, indicated that they would do “about the same amount of online shopping as they are doing today,” whilst 48% of the respondents in the U.S., and 40% of the respondents in France, indicated they would probably do more online shopping than they are doing presently during COVID-19.

To really answer this question, we need to look deeper at online shopping. Both the Post Office and UPS have been overwhelmed with deliveries, and some people are waiting weeks for delivery. Even Amazon has slipped with more and more items ineligible for next day delivery.

I believe that people will return to brick and mortar retail as soon as the pandemic begins to show signs that it’s under control. However, some items will continue to be purchased online IF free shipping and fast delivery are included.

One of the areas where I expect explosive growth is the travel industry. Just about everyone I know is planning to take a vacation as soon as it’s safe to travel and before long the airlines are going to be sold out of seats.

I believe that consumers are also going to looking for a higher level of customer service. Phone trees and recorded messages about “how much they care about our business” will lead to an exodus of customers.

Finally, even when cutting the cord, TV is still the best way to introduce new consumer products in conjunction with local paper FSI’s. The emphasis on digital, for a lot of products, is a waste of money. Consumers don’t want a digital relationship with their peanut butter brand.

Headlines about changes in consumer behavior are a lot of speculation designed to get clicks. Use your head and think like a consumer who is tired of staying at home.

Are changes to consumer behavior permanent?