Woman at her computer, holding a credit card

Consumer Trends Emerging from COVID-19

Count Jamie Davis among the long-term fans of online grocery shopping.

Jamie, an author and business manager in Bella Vista, Ark., has always shopped online. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s also shopped for groceries online.

“Admittedly, I’m hooked,” Jamie says.

Many consumers are also happy to tap and swipe their way to grocery runs, rather than load up a car with food and essentials. According to a Global Web Index survey, 43% of internet users globally said they’ll shop online more frequently when the pandemic ends. That’s just one data point the study revealed in an examination of emerging trends in consumer spending in the coronavirus recovery period.

Jamie, who says ordering online has reduced her impulse buys, sprung for the year-long delivery option.

“I work so many hours a week that getting to the grocery store was always a struggle,” Jamie says. “Now that I took the plunge and figured out what I could get where this is ideal for me. Plus, I have the added benefit of not needing to deal with social distancing and stores.”

GWI data showed that sentiment most prevalent in the age of 35-44 demographic (44%). Of 55-64 year-olds, the number drops to 34%. Either way, it’s enough of a difference to enlighten businesses of their online shopping experience to meet demand.

Amazon Prime and Prime Now have conditioned the public to expect instant gratification. Sometimes, even the 2-day delivery can feel like an eternity.

Same-day delivery has become the new express shopping experience – or at least, all your goods delivered the next day. This lightning-fast delivery comes at a price, one which the top 10% of income earners are more likely to foot the bill for delivery and processing fees, plus gratuity, than other income demographics.

Brooklyn Reed is a florist in Wilson, N.C. She’s ordered bath essentials and clothing online during the pandemic. She buys groceries onsite because she works in a store. But creature comforts? Brooklyn says she’ll continue to tap and swipe to buy them.

“It’s for the convenience,” Brooklyn says. “I also like the original fragrances at Bath & Body Works I can order online.”

Regardless of attitudes toward the social distancing, consumers might continue online ordering to a) sidestep social-distancing measures; or b) not expose themselves to possible contagion.

Online shopping’s future, post-outbreak

When we can go out and shop more freely – will we? Even as communities enter phases of a new normal for social interaction, many could hang onto conventions of social distancing for months. Some, out of caution, and others, as a response to the second wave of contagion, regardless of its severity. In the GWI profile, 40% of internet users said they’d buy more items online for delivery than they did before the pandemic.

This could be from a realization that it’s easy to order online; it could also be an indicator of prolonged social caution.

Tami Turner manages a medical practice in Charlotte, N.C. She says she just placed an online order last week and had before the pandemic, but not often. She’s discovered she doesn’t need as much material goods and has benefitted from the extra time at home.

“I thought my spending habits were pared down before the pandemic, but in this great ‘pause’ is more evident that less is more,” Tami says. “My needs and most of my wants are being met, and that time with the family and with friends is everything.”

Storefront closures have forced businesses to find a creative hand to stay afloat.

The Crooked Hammock is a trendy American-fare restaurant in Delaware. Popular for its courtyard seating, family games, and locally brewed craft beer, it has taken a user-friendly, in-it-together approach to business. It has featured staff members in personal videos, hosted Facebook live events involving do-it-yourself science projects, and have released new brews with quarantine-familiar names (Daytime Pajamas).

Yet, as easy as online shopping has become, there’s no substitute for window shopping.

App experiences try to replicate impulse spending, pairing it with predictive algorithms to suggest maple syrup with that waffle batter purchase. It’s not as easy to convince consumers they need items – such as drinks, magazines, and candy – they didn’t even know they needed.

COVID-19 lessons: Germs are everywhere

Open for business won’t automatically signify booming business. In fact, 32% of global internet users say they’ll shop on site less frequently. Again, drivers appear to be a reluctance to give up social distancing and an affinity for online convenience. It’s also difficult to differentiate what makes drive-up purchases at retailers such as Target and Walmart the most appealing: Social distancing or immediate gratification.

Plus, there’s a tiny yet huge factor: Germs.

They’re on our phones, door handles, and shopping carts. Payment pads, credit cards, and cash seem like collectors of bacteria and other microscopic menaces. In light of this, 34% of consumers globally said after the outbreak, they’ll use mobile payment services more frequently. The trend is toward contactless everything. Jamie Davis says she’s unsure what paying for things post-pandemic will be like.

“I feel like I’m fortunate enough to work from home and should try to eliminate unnecessary interactions as much as possible while still supporting what local businesses I can,” Jamie says. “I can support the restaurant by ordering curbside. I can support grocery stores and people who work for things like Instacart by having deliveries. I don’t NEED to go wander around Walmart for no reason. Unnecessary risk.”

Will measures retailers make to transition from total shutdown to limited commerce today stick around to become a new normal tomorrow?

Managing a return to normal

Places still in conservative modes of lockdown watch intently what cities and nations that have eased restrictions look like. Locations noticing a smoother transition often implemented strict measures to stem the virus’ spread in the early stages.

A company’s behavior during trying times will likely influence consumer sentiment moving forward. As we spend more frequently, we’ll remember grocery suppliers who made headlines for employee complaints about PPE. We’ll also remember restaurants that served free food to first responders. Brand support will go to those who helped others, says 38% of internet users.

Consumers aged 16-24 are more likely (41%) to feel this way than those 55-64 (30%). Accommodations such as flexible payment plans will also be factors, but it largely comes down to one factor:

Dana Murray feels many brands rose to the occasion. She’s a pharmacist in Midlothian, Va., who cites Athleta, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and many restaurants among those who tactfully weathered the storm. “I feel like they are just glad to be open and serving customers,” Dana says. “Small businesses have really been hurt.”

Social media consumption has risen, too. According to Influential’s market impact report, users confined to home since early March are connecting by social media: Time spent on these platforms rose 29%, to 184 minutes per day from 143. Instagram (32%) and YouTube (44%) saw the biggest spikes.

Digital audio, podcasts, cable viewership, CTV and OTT consumption are jumping, too, since the pandemic began. It’s no surprise, with 90% of the workforce doing its thing remotely.

Sports expected to win big in ratings post-COVID

PSB, a global custom research and analytics consultancy, polled Americans recently about the return of live sports. It’s research reveals they are five times as likely to be excited about the return of live sports. Fans of pro leagues – Major League Baseball, the NBA, NFL, NHL, and PGA/LPGA are 7 ½ times more likely to be psyched by games resuming than among non-fans.

“I think I will probably watch more at least initially,” says Billy Marsh, an independent contractor in Lincolnton, N.C. “Partially out of curiosity to see how the accommodations that will need to be made to adjust for Covid-19.”

The PSB study asked fans of each league if they’ll watch as much or more game broadcasts when live play begins. The highest percentage: MLB, at 91% planning to watch as many games as before (63%) or more (28%) when opening day arrives. NFL fans were close, at 90% (64% as much, 26% more) when play kicks off this fall.

“I’m interested in seeing how the NBA and NHL resume play,” Billy says. “But I’m a huge football fan, college and pro. So I’m hoping the impact is minimized and that they figure out how to play the game safely and responsibly.”

Dana Murray also likes the college game – basketball and football, particularly, at Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia, schools her children attend. Her concern is more with college and other amateur athletics.

“The Olympics were supposed to be this year,” Dana points out. “Athletes prepare their whole lives for that opportunity to represent. I would like to see as much of that as possible.”

Network broadcast of past Super Bowls, NBA Finals, and World Series games have piqued interest. ESPN, an American cable sports channel, drew its highest ratings for The Match – a golf event pitting pros Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods against each other, with playing partners Tom Brady, who plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Peyton Manning, another all-time great quarterback.

At its peak, 6.3 million viewers tuned in to see Manning and Woods prevail in the charity event. Dana didn’t watch, but heard about Brady’s struggles with his game and splitting his pants during a shot. Billy was in and out.

“I’d rather play golf (badly) than watch it,” he jokes. “But the parts I watched were very good.”

NASCAR has staged two events on live TV without fans in the stands because of the pandemic, and the NHL recently announced plans to resume its season by skipping ahead to an extended playoff field. Progress like this – and even a new spectacle like The Match – are good signs of things to come.

“It was a great way to try and bring back some sense of normalcy and entertainment to sports lovers especially,” Dana says.

Source: Global Web Index