While stay-at-home orders are being lifted and cities around the world are beginning to reopen, individuals are emerging with transformed shopping habits and altered consumer patterns. Should companies be preparing for permanent shifts in consumer behavior? How will brands continue to connect with and impact their followers post-social distancing? Will Covid-19 forever alter our habits?

Online spending surges

According to Engine Insights, online shopping has increased 74% since March 13th, in response to Covid-19. E-commerce giant, Amazon, reported that sales increased to $75.5 billion in the first quarter, up from $59.7 billion during the same quarter last year. According to Forbes, “there has been a 129% year-over-year growth in U.S. & Canadian e-commerce orders as of April 21, and an impressive 146% growth in all online retail orders.” It’s no surprise that many consumers have turned toward online shopping during this worldwide pandemic, but that doesn’t ease the pain for small and large brick-and-mortar stores. J.Crew, Neiman Marcus, JCPenney, and Macy’s are just some of the big names that have announced defeat. The New York Times has dubbed it “the death of the department store.”

Buying local increases

Just as large brick-and-mortars are collapsing under the heavy pressure of the pandemic, smaller local shops are sharing the weight, struggling to keep their doors (metaphorically) open. Consumers are responding to seeing their favorite hometown brands in need, which has created a rallying cry behind shops. An IBM study showed that the pandemic “has created a priority on shopping local for those surveyed – with 25% of respondents indicating they are now shopping more often at locally owned stores and buying more local made, grown, or sourced products.” According to Accenture, 46% of consumers surveyed from March 19-25, said they would be “shopping in closer neighborhood stores” and 41% are “only buying brands they know and trust” and stated that they are likely to sustain both behaviors post-pandemic. The same study found that 80% of consumers are feeling more connected to their communities and 88% expect these connections to stick.

Shopping in bulk is up

Overall sales at Costco showed an 11.7% increase in March of 2020 to $15.49 billion, compared to March of 2019. According to a survey, 88% of respondents said they couldn’t find items on the shelves that they normally would buy and 46% stated that they started the habit of buying in bulk as a result of the pandemic. Many consumers have been accustomed to getting almost anything they need delivered to their homes within 1-2 days, or at least readily available on a local shelf. While toilet paper and cold medicine might get a break after the pandemic slows down, bulk shopping and stockpiling might be here to stay. Many consumers have experienced the age of “on demand” and may have not felt the need to stock up on supplies until now. With even Amazon deliveries delayed, 73% are making fewer trips to the grocery store, and interestingly enough, 47% said they were eating more processed foods, which could have a link to stockpiling and buying items with an extended shelf life.

Conscious consumption rises

It’s still about purpose. It has become the mission of many organizations and individuals to fight food waste. Whether you’re working toward a solution to support farmers with excess crops or you now find yourself less likely to let those berries sit in your fridge until they grow mold, consumers everywhere are changing their mindsets. According to Accenture, 59% of consumers surveyed from March 19-25, said they would be “shopping more consciously” and are likely to sustain this after the pandemic. During this time of instability and uncertainty, consumers are being more mindful of what they’re buying. Limiting food waste, buying sustainable options, and looking for purpose within their favorite brands, are just some of the ways that we’re seeing this consciousness emerge.

According to a study cited by PR Newswire, “42% of respondents believe that the way they shop will fundamentally change as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Will consumers continue their heightened online shopping habits?
Will shoppers keep prioritizing local companies and homegrown products?
Will bulk shopping and stockpiling become the norm?
Will conscious consumption and a focus on sustainability continue to rise?

“Covid-19 is permanently altering U.S. consumer behavior. There are long term implications of the new consumer behaviors for industries like retail, energy, transportation, and travel, among others. These organizations need to quickly adapt their business models to serve the new consumer behaviors in order to survive and thrive,” said Jesus Mantas, Senior Managing Partner at IBM Services.

Covid-19 has changed and is continuing to alter the way consumers relate to their favorite companies, and brands must move with this shift. While we have yet to see the lasting impact of this pandemic on our daily habits, the statistics and studies point toward a forever-changed consumer. How will your brand respond and prepare for this new reality?