Pandemic influences changes in consumer attitudes, behaviors
More shopping is online, value focused, and local
Initial anxiety about the overall impact of Covid-19 in North America and Europe began to diminish in late spring, after the outbreak peaked in those regions and people adjusted to the social contact restrictions and others changes in daily routine.
To restore their equilibrium amid ongoing uncertainty and physical isolation, people adopted coping strategies, including increased exercise, reading, sleeping, healthier eating, and more snacking, according to the Kantar Covid-19 Barometer.
The multi-wave research initiative tracks consumer attitudes, behaviors, and expectations across 50 markets. Wave 4 research, published in May, revealed these three major trends:
- E-commerce is accelerating with more newcomers online.
- Value-consciousness is rising as incomes are falling.
- Buying local is shifting from a sustainability practice to mainstream.
The Kantar Covid-19 Barometer concluded that changes in consumer attitudes and behaviors open new challenges and leadership opportunities for brands as they attempt to emerge from this period of disruption and restore healthy growth.
Almost one-third of households overall—40 percent of households with children—increased online shopping during the pandemic. And one-third of households also expect that online shopping will increase. The number of people anticipating more online shopping rises to 45 percent for households with children, and to 40 percent with shoppers concerned about sustainability.
This move to online shopping creates opportunities for brands: 38 percent of consumers said they would continue to buy from online stores they first frequented during the pandemic; and 31 percent said they would continue to buy products and services they first purchased online during the pandemic. However, 25 percent of online shoppers found shopping in a physical store more satisfying, which challenges brands to improve the online experience.
Because of financial hardship and anticipation that the coronavirus may resurge, consumers are trying to economize. Income had declined for 45 percent of households in the Wave 4 research conducted in late April, up from 38 percent in Wave 2, which was conducted a month earlier. And 72 percent of Wave 4 consumers expressed concern about future virus outbreaks and lockdowns.
Consequently, people are more price conscious. In Wave 4, in April, 68 percent reported that they “pay more attention to price,” compared with 59 percent in Wave 2, in March. Based on these findings, pricing, promotional, and value-added strategies will become more important for brands.
The origin of products is becoming more important, especially to households with families. Almost two-thirds of people say they prefer buying products and services from their own country. The proportion is even greater for people who consider themselves sustainability activists. In addition to sustainability considerations, supply and safety concerns also influence this attitude.
Around of quarter of people say brands should return to domestic production, and around a third worry about the safety of products from abroad. They believe that products imported from China and the US pose the greatest health risk.
Brand actions to meet changing expectations
The growth of these three trends—e-commerce, value consciousness, and localism—is expected to continue as people adjust their lives to ongoing disruption. To effectively meet changing consumer expectations, the Kantar Covid-19 Barometer recommends these brand actions:
- Focus on growing e-commerce and improving the online customer experience.
- Develop added-value strategies that appeal to anxious, frugally minded consumers.
- Promote local provenance as a positive characteristic.
- Be aware of small direct-to-consumer competitors that proliferated during the home quarantine period.