Written by Andreea Vilu, Marketing & Events Manager-in-Training at WBC UK
As the lockdown, social distancing and working from home are becoming the new normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic, customer’s habits of buying and shopping have changed. Consumers are now adapting to different ways and they are forced to change their purchasing behaviour and learn to be more creative and adapt to the new habits. Due to the lockdown stores have been forced to close and switch the consumers’ experience from in-store to home.
Online shopping is becoming the new normal and the majority of businesses are adapting to it and they are trying to provide and please all the customers’ needs. Consumers’ purchasing behaviour has changed and they are shopping, buying products and services differently than how they would have done post-COVID-19 pandemic. The customer purchases have changed due to these difficult and challenging times being more focused on the most basic needs. People are shopping more locally and they are adapting to digital business.
Although the number of people purchasing online has increased in the last few months, the trends to purchasing behaviour are twofold and we have witnessed the rise of two different types of buyer personas. The first one is the customer who has embraced wholly the digital experience, e-browsing and most likely will not switch back to in-store purchasing; the other one, however, has accepted the new digital way of shopping forced but has not embraced it fully and buys online only essential products, awaiting for the full in-person customer experience once everything will be back to normal habits.
If this is the future brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, how will this affect us?
How is consumer purchasing behaviour influenced by online and physical shopping.
Before the pandemic, people used to go browsing in stores and spend hours without an intent to buy something. According to Lan Xia – Professor of marketing at Bentley University in Massachusetts – people browse for two reasons: to gather information and for pleasure. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, both these experiences have moved online and browsing has transformed into e-browsing.
Studies made at Louisiana State University show that when consumers go browsing, they aim at gaining knowledge in sale prices or discovering new brands that please them. Another study by Xia (2010) shows that window shopping brings the benefits of escaping, socialising, relaxing and fun. In addition to this, a research carried by Retail Drive suggests that consumers will prefer to go in-store because it gives them the ability to see, touch, feel and try out items compared to online shopping. Indeed, the latter seems not to bring the same pleasure and, at the end of the day, it appears to be riskier because consumers do not know what they will receive and whether they will be pleased with it or not and what will result in a return. A 2019 report by First Insight – an online merchandising company – concluded that during a typical shopping day, consumers tend to spend more in-store than online. They surveyed over 1,000 US shoppers and it revealed that 54% of shoppers spend more than $50 (£39) online compared to in-store purchase where 71% of shoppers spend more than $50 (£39).
Customers’ purchasing behaviour was more inclined to be in-store and get the experience and pleasure that browsing was offering, but now this has been taken away. Some luxury brands such as Gucci, Prada and Chanel are trying to bring this experience at home for their customers. The more accessible brands are trying to keep up with all the regulations implemented by the national governments. At the same time, they have to keep up with the customers’ preferences that are changing and the days of one-size-fits-all marketing are over. Companies have to create a customized and personalized marketing strategy for each type of behaviour.
According to Mehta, S. et al (2020), the pandemic had shaped two different types of consumer purchasing behaviour. The first type is the consumer that buys everything online and plans to keep buying everything online even after the lockdown is no longer the new normal. The second type is the consumer that is shopping online and sometimes goes to the grocery shops to get the experience that they used to have pre-COVID-19. They also plan to go back to the old style of shopping after the lockdown is over. Some consumers are trying to cut back on spending, while others continue to spend as normal, however, they are changing the way they shop as we move to more online shopping.
How will COVID-19 shape the future for the consumer purchasing behaviour?
Consumers respond to the situation in several ways. Some feel nervous and concerned, sparking fear – purchasing staples and grooming goods. On the other side, some people are oblivious to the pandemic and prefer to do business as usual, despite concerns from government and health experts.
Going ahead, we will see a rise in the automated workforce as more people work from home and love doing so. Companies are forced to understand the consumer better and personalize their brand based on individual needs.
Market-based businesses desperately need to predict what kind of consumer is coming, so that they can survive the present uncertainty, and develop the skills to please the new needs of the consumer of the future. The most important and irreversible pandemic result for shoppers has been a growth in internet shopping as well as other interactive practises. Locked-down audiences spent more hours than ever before watching tv, engaging in social media, playing video gaming and shopping. The majority of customers surveyed say that they will continue to replace non-digital interactions with interactive alternatives resulting in how the future might look like.
This article is part of an exchange series of articles started in collaboration between ConQuest Consulting and its British partner WBC UK. It has been written and produced by WBC UK.