The Way We Shop Has Changed Forever, Thanks To COVID-19

COVID-19 has radically changed the behavior of businesses and consumers. We have seen panic buying, the rise of the “home economy” and a strong move towards contactless shopping.

As we come out of the worst of the pandemic, it seems the time has come to reflect on the most significant consumer behavior changes we’ve seen and make some predictions about the lasting and pervasive effects of COVID-19 on how which we buy.

Purchases in the event of a pandemic

One of the first impacts of COVID-19 was the repeated striping of supermarket shelves toilet paper and other products before confinements.

A debate sparked by this behavior concerned how irrational it could be considered. panic buying – or if it was rational to store in response to the irrational behavior of others.

It was a real game theory lesson. Decisions that make perfect sense for individuals can turn out to be bad for the community.

Spend less, spend more

Spending more money in the supermarket was at least possible.

Consumption habits have changed dramatically due to border closures, purchase restrictions, door-to-door orders and general uncertainty.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows sharp declines in spending on transport, accommodation, leisure and entertainment services and food and drink.

Consumption of individual services, 2020

Percentage change in the consumption of household services by selected categories by quarter 2020.
ABS, Household consumption overview, December 2020 quarter

Spending on food has increased slightly and spending on alcohol even more. The main reasons given for the increase in consumption, according to to a study, were stress (45.7%), increased availability of alcohol (34.4%) and boredom (30.1%).

Individual consumption of goods, 2020

Individual consumption of goods, 2020
Percentage change in household goods consumption by selected categories by quarter 2020.
ABS, Household consumption overview, December 2020 quarter

Spending has also increased for home electronics, streaming services, furniture, hardware and pet related items.

Interest has increased in traditional activities such as cooking, reading and gardening.

It is too early to say to what extent these changes brought about by the pandemic will translate into permanent behavior change. However, the research published last month, based on a survey of 7,500 households in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, supports the likelihood of at least some long-term sectoral changes in consumer behavior.

Predictions of a shopping spree

Like restrictions are loosening, some marketing experts predict “revenge spending”- shopping sprees with abandon.

Granted, many high-income households have the money to spend on vacations, a new car, or home renovations, with Australians counting around 140 billion dollars in additional savings during the pandemic.

Other research, such as the National Australia Bank quarterly publication Consumer sentiment surveysuggests that the pandemic has prompted greater caution. In their most recent poll, 37% said they were careful or careful about where they spent their money (42% of women and 33% of men). In terms of purchasing influences, 43% said they support local businesses, compared to 15% for environmental issues and 14% for social concerns such as working practices.

Some wondered whether, in the wake of COVID-19, we are on the verge of another ‘roaring twenties’ – mimicking that period of economic prosperity and cultural dynamism of the 1920s after the deprivations of World War I and the epidemic of “Spanish flu”.

The circumstances are not exactly the same. But new technologies and changes in habits are likely to lead to several long-term changes in the way we shop.

Switch to contactless

Our desire to reduce physical contact has accelerated contactless payment methods. Research (from the Netherlands) suggests that this will, for the most part, be be a permanent change, accelerating a steady decline in the use of cash for shopping.

Cash withdrawals from ATMs using debit cards

Monthly, seasonally adjusted.
Reserve Bank of Australia

Technology allowing payments using smartphones, such as supermarkets introducing a way to pay by scan a QR code, will contribute to this change.

Ways to buy things without ever having to walk into a store – like curbside pickup and door-to-door delivery – are also expected to continue. In 2021, we saw a number of start-ups promising grocery deliveries. in 15 minutes.

“Ubiquitous” experiences

Increasingly, our buying behavior will be shaped by what marketers call omnichannel shopping – a fancy word meaning using a variety of experiences to make a purchase.

You can, for example, go to a store to try on headphones, then go online to read third-party reviews and compare prices from different retailers.

Technologies such as augmented reality will facilitate this trend. For example, IKEA Place The app lets you see how the furnishings will fit into your space.

Increasingly, what were once physical experiences will have their digital variations, ranging from attending college to meeting with a medical professional to taking a visit to the British Museum Where discovering the Grand Canyon. While these may not replicate the actual experience, they will be an increasingly common way to “try before you buy”.

The future of shopping will gradually merge the digital and the physical. But regardless of the changes, some things will remain constant: the human desire to make experiences practical, fun, and meaningful.The conversation

Adrian R. Camilleri, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Sydney University of Technology

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

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