Schedules are opening up, restrictions are lifting, and businesses are welcoming back increasing numbers of customers as the country gradually recovers from the past year. Now the big question is, will some of the consumer behavior changes seen due to the pandemic, things like no touchpoints, self-service, and PPE needs, be lasting changes, or will they be temporary?
There is no denying that the pandemic impacted almost every aspect of daily life, from how people worked, communicated, traveled, shopped, and more. We saw firsthand just how quickly business could change in the span of one year. While the lockdowns and social distancing rules happened suddenly, the repercussions for those changes could take much longer to unfold.
Consumer behavior in 2021 is evolving post-pandemic; there are several potential trends that businesses of all industries should be aware of. Make sure you know which changes resulting from the pandemic may return to normal and which are likely to be long-lasting.
How do you identify consumer behavior changes?
Consumer behavior is the study of an individual’s or group’s buying habits, taking into account personal, psychological, and social influences and factors. Analyzing and keeping track of consumer behavior is important for businesses to help them understand what influences consumers’ buying decisions.
Less Enthusiasm for Physical In-Store Visits
Online shopping has boomed since the start of the pandemic, as well as curbside and drive-thru pickup options. What does that mean for the future of physical stores? According to research, a majority of consumers report they do miss shopping in stores and that brick-and-mortar stores deliver a shopping experience that can’t be replicated online. Young consumers, in particular, want to go out again.
However, while shoppers may miss stores, they have also come to appreciate the ease of touch-less shopping options. These contactless modes of shopping may have only peaked in popularity due to safety concerns; there is no denying that the convenience and flexibility they offer likely means that these forms of shopping are here to stay. Kevin Donnelly, a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Shopify, reports that curbside pickup, in particular, has been one of the most requested conveniences over the past year. Businesses can expect that curbside service is here to stay.
To meet consumer behavior changes, and deliver the best of online and offline shopping, a high percentage of retailers are preparing for brick and mortar store reconfigurations. These reconfigurations will seek to better incorporate physical stores with eCommerce to create a seamless shopping experience for customers.
Increase in Contactless Payments
According to Worldly Global Payments Report, there has been a 32% reduction in the use of cash since 2019. Due to the pandemic, consumers are moving away from using cash at record speed, with 2020 accelerating the decline of cash usage by over three years. At the same time, e-commerce saw the highest growth rate in five years.
What payment method is rapidly replacing cash? While plastic cards remain the leading payment method, both contactless cards, also referred to as tap and go cards, and mobile payments are growing in usage. Digital wallets and mobile payment apps are not only gaining popularity for online shopping but also in-store purchases. Consumers are looking to avoid handling cash and seeking a safe and quick contactless check out instead. Other ways in which consumers are seeking contactless experiences include QR code restaurant menus and touchless hotel room keys. These experiences, already gaining in popularity with the increasingly mobile world pre-pandemic, should be here to stay.
Growing Demand for Virtual Consultations
The pandemic prompted a major shift in meetings and events, with many moving to a virtual implementation. While employees became accustomed to all kinds of virtual meetings during the pandemic, consumers were also embracing this virtual experience. While virtual consultations existed before the pandemic, it was often thought of more as a novelty. Suddenly the pandemic became the driving force of adoption for virtual visits in a variety of industries, from healthcare to home builders and auto dealers. And now that a majority of consumers have experienced a virtual visit, they recognize it as a convenient option and want it to stay. Businesses can even schedule a virtual visit with their local Safeguard advisor.
Rising Uses for Self-Service Technologies
Customers are seeking more control over their experiences, and one way retailers can offer that is through self-service technologies. These technologies may take the form of a self-checkout stand or an ordering kiosk. A self-service kiosk in a restaurant could allow customers to order their food, while a bank kiosk could help customers complete contactless banking transactions. Within these self-service technologies, businesses need to think about them as a customer experience.
Many industries, if not most, still need those personal customer service touches, even with the rise of self-service technologies. Self-checkout at the grocery store can offer convenience, but a cashier is still there to assist the customer whenever it’s needed. Customers need to be supported throughout these digital interactions in order to keep customer satisfaction high. Self-service technologies don’t replace the personal touch that customers expect.
Shoppers may feel nostalgic for their pre-pandemic lifestyle, but most realize that consumer behaviors and preferences have permanently altered. Businesses should expect that consumer needs and expectations will continue to evolve as customers and companies continue to define our new normal.
As businesses recover and build momentum, your local Safeguard Advisor can help with the right products, services, and planning. Your advisor will learn about your unique goals and then help craft your strategy with personalized solutions that fit your business. Call 855.778.3124 to get started.
- The pandemic tremendously altered consumer behavior, and it is likely that the post-pandemic normal will be fundamentally different from what it was before.
- Businesses that implemented some convenience options as a result of the pandemic now have to decide if those are services that can remain viable long-term.
- With the right products, services, and planning, your local Safeguard Advisor can help you craft a strategy with personalized solutions that fit your business.