Immediately after the pandemic
In the past, people’s purchases were primarily influenced by concerns such as the value of a product, whether it serves a specific purpose, matches their lifestyle or image, and cost. More recently, social considerations have become important for consumers. Many new brands donate some of their revenues to support causes such as sustainability and community development. This appeals to the modern consumer, driving support for brands that share their values.
COVID-19 has changed the way people buy – and what they buy. Stockpiling, panic buying and shortages of basic necessities left many without essential items such as toilet paper, flour and medication. Physical and online grocery stores struggled to meet the increase in demand.
Stuck at home, and looking for things to do keep their sanity, many people found new recreational activities that required non-essential purchases. The load on delivery services created by this trend meant that essential items were delayed. Subsequently, there has been much debate about the ethics and consequences of this behaviour.
Consumers were forced to think about the meaning of “essential” and the impact of their non-essential purchases. New routines and behaviours emerged as people became accustomed to a lifestyle that’s now more focused on essentials.
Towards a post-COVID-19 society
As we exit COVID restrictions, these new behaviours and habits will persist. Many companies have adapted to support them: Uber has started to deliver essentials and Amazon has added grocery delivery as part of Prime membership. Demand for online grocery shopping has remained high, with retailers shifting to support it. Second waves cause panic about restrictions being reintroduced, which will reinforce these trends. Many people will realise that it is important to consider the impacts of their behaviour.
Transparency of choice
Information enabling consumers to make judgements that reflect their personal values will be made more widely available. The degree to which people consider work, daily necessities, travel, activities, delivery and brands as “essential” will be based on their values. Services and brands will therefore need to be transparent with information that helps people to decide whether a service – and the impact of its own values and processes – is essential. For delivery services, people will value transparency about delivery methods, and processes that keep delivery workers safe, prioritise those most in need and reduce environmental impact. Consumers will choose these priorities and sacrifice some convenience to help others.
By continuously making these new choices and valuing the transparency that helps make informed decisions, society will come to expect it as part of customer experience and brand value. Considering impacts on other people and the environment will have a strong influence on choices. This will eventually force companies and services to be more transparent and to design customer experiences that are tailored to consumer values. This heightened awareness of the impact of people’s choices will lead to the emergence of new consumer behaviours.
Back to essential living
Many people find themselves unemployed and the world has gone into recession. The reduction in disposable income means many will have to practice “essential” living, reviewing their lives according to new essential standards. This will mean cooking at home rather than eating out, minimising travel by supporting local destinations, creating movie events at home rather than going to the cinema, or exercising at home rather than at the gym. For these consumers, lifestyles will be reduced to these essentials. People who have remained employed will find themselves with additional disposable income from not travelling, socialising or spending money on items such as clothes. These people will shift their spending towards essential items to repurpose the home.
People will realise and value the benefits of living more simply and consuming less. Once the economy starts to recover, consumers will spend their money more wisely and buy fewer disposable items. Digital services will be more acceptable and often preferred, because there is no need for physical contact with another people, as in online yoga classes.