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6 Ways the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Changed Consumer Behavior

Updated: Feb 8, 2022

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The pandemic continues to wield tremendous influence over how people live. Years after the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the world is still in a long transition from crisis management to recovery. Consumer behavior has changed and will change for years to come due to widespread infection, isolation, and economic insecurity.

New consumer behaviors brought by the pandemic encompass all aspects of our lives– from work to entertainment. These transformations will significantly affect retailers and firms that sell consumer packaged products. So, it’s crucial for business owners to be observant of these changes.

In this article, we’ll discuss six specific ways that the pandemic has impacted consumer behavior, and ultimately how e-commerce owners should respond to these changes.

How the pandemic changed consumer behavior

  1. Going digital

Customers of all types have been compelled to purchase differently due to physical distancing and stay-at-home orders. A few months into COVID-19, consumer buying online expanded dramatically. Consumers' intent to shop online continues to grow, especially in the essentials and home-entertainment categories. In fact, global e-commerce sales jumped to $4.89 trillion in 2021, making e-commerce marketing a necessity for all businesses. However, increasing cyberattacks come with higher consumer demand, so businesses should ensure that their e-commerce sites are well-protected.

Younger generations, especially digital natives, are naturally drawn to online shopping platforms. However, digital adoption among older generations is also on the rise. Individuals of all ages isolated at home spend a lot of time on social media, video websites, applications, and e-commerce sites. In China, senior influencers live-stream products and have followers in the millions. As a result, companies who sell consumer packaged goods to the elderly, particularly in advanced Asian nations and China, may need to rethink how they use online channels to reach out to prospects.

  1. Prioritizing health

Early into the pandemic, the top priority was to attempt to control the virus by using extensive restrictions and sanitary measures. When lockdowns were at their strictest, classes, work, and even medical check-ups were conducted online. As a result, apps and websites for teleconferencing and task management were used widely. With virus variants appearing every few months, these apps will likely stay relevant and in demand.

The majority understand the importance of pandemic regulations, but in the interest of stimulating economies, many governments are gradually reopening shopping and entertainment centers after uncompromising lockdowns.

Hygiene is now a primary concern for Americans when they think about returning to brick-and-mortar stores. Hygiene regulations and efficient communication of cleaning operations are becoming increasingly important for retailers and restaurants. Technologies that enhance hygiene and distancing protocols are frequently used, particularly in contactless activities like food and grocery delivery and curbside pickup. Millennials and Gen Z are the number 1 adopters of contactless activities.

  1. Traveling locally

Prevailing health concerns contribute to reduced air travel and increased local mobility. The restrictions have particularly affected air travel, and global flight frequency has dropped drastically. After this economic pullback, it may take years for airlines to recover to pre-COVID-19 levels. Meanwhile, the pandemic has also resulted in a rise in the usage of private automobiles and a decrease in the use of public transportation. But numerous countries have encouraged citizens to take up cycling to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

Though international tourism is at an all-time low, local tourism is experiencing a resurgence. Vacationers are discovering, or rediscovering, great restaurants and museums within their region or country. Destination weddings that were supposed to be held abroad are now being held in other states. With locals becoming more interested in neighborhood shops, small and medium enterprises are likely to grow.

  1. Switching brands

The COVID health crisis has sparked a rush of new activity. In reaction to economic difficulties, business closures, and shifting priorities, a large number of Americans are developing new shopping practices.

Trying something new is an economic behavior also observed in European countries as shoppers seek to minimize the risk of infection. Two-thirds of customers say they've recently experimented with a new brand, store, or method of purchasing. Price, convenience, and safety are the most common reasons they give for shifting. Many shoppers prefer stores that are less crowded, have shorter lines, and have good local social media reviews. For marketers, this emphasizes the need to know when customers will be switching brands or shops. To retain customers, marketers should put extra effort into gaining positive reviews and managing logistics to ensure product and service availability.

Moreover, a big percentage of consumers have become conscious of their environmental footprint, leading to an increase in the demand for sustainable packaging and products. But that doesn’t mean that consumers don’t look at eco-friendly products’ price and quality. The Bamboo Company, for instance, offers a variety of sustainable and durable bamboo products and packaging. Besides a commitment to the environment, companies that recognize their social responsibility are also being patronized by many.

  1. Unlocking lockdown lifestyles

Technology has been instrumental in making education and work possible despite the restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. But there is no doubt that technology has also helped individuals relax and connect with each other.

Video streaming, online gaming, and the use of social media have soared. For example, 12.3 million users recently attended a Fortnite digital event. Additionally, millions of people around the world have gotten hooked on the word game Wordle. These situations prove that games and gaming during the pandemic are becoming huge social events. People have gone from meeting new acquaintances in clubs to getting new friends through online games.

However, as we all know, work and play aren’t the only essential daily activities. Concerns about individuals easing into sedentary lifestyles are grounded on the fact that exercising is often done in gyms or outdoor areas. But investment in at-home fitness is growing. While others buy gym equipment to use at home, some have turned to fitness games, whether on Nintendo or a yoga app.

Overall, consumers still expect to spend more time doing at-home activities, even in regions with lesser restrictions on mobility. Despite the changing times, the human need for connection, enjoyment, and self-development remain. To understand and harness these trends as well as individual and collective behaviors, tapping into marketing psychology is essential.

  1. Learning new things

The COVID-19 pandemic has disturbed countless employees' lives, leading many of them to consider learning new skills to ease everyday anxieties and prepare for the future. Over 50% of Americans said they took up a new hobby, learned a new craft, experimented with fresh food, or worked on a project at home. The popularity of gardening and baking products is proof of this. On the other hand, there are individuals who have committed themselves to developing new skills for work, whether by need or desire.

According to a recent poll by Boston Consulting Group, people were most likely to transfer to industries that are similar to their previous job. For example, engineering is the top choice for manual workers aiming to find a new career. On the whole, this trend means that schools and online platforms that offer training and certifications are highly sought after.

Final thoughts

People are immersing themselves more in the digital world, prioritizing health, and traveling locally. They are also experimenting with different brands, acquiring “lockdown” lifestyles, and gaining new knowledge. To cash in on these changes in consumer behavior, businesses need to better respond to their clients’ needs and wants. Companies should start with user research to understand their customers and prospects better. Later, they should build a customer data platform to monitor and improve customer experience. In a nutshell, understanding consumer behavior is the foundation of successful e-commerce.

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