The New Business Normal: Consumer Shopping Behavior Shaping Retail Post-COVID

Businesses have always faced and will continue to meet a wide range of challenges in their efforts to manage operations costs and increase revenue. This became even more apparent during the pandemic. 

Few predicted that COVID-19 would last as long as it has or that it would have such a significant impact on almost every aspect of modern life, including the way people shop.

Retail consumer consumption behaviors and patterns were drastically altered as a result of the social distancing and lockdown mandates. With the introduction of vaccines and the slow return of “regular” activities, many retail businesses are left unsure how to navigate these difficult times.

All is not lost, though. 

To understand the long-term effects of changes in consumer spending habits and behavior, business owners and retailers need to examine new consumer behaviors and adapt their business models to accommodate the trends in order to remain competitive.

5 Consumer Shopping Behavior Shaping Retail Post-COVID

Purchasing preferences, attitudes, and emotions all influence consumer behavior. Here’s how these factors are influencing the retail market post-COVID.

  1. Increase in In-Store Shopping 

During the pandemic, e-commerce sales increased as buying online became the preferred method of shopping. Consumers continue to shop online, but as the world recovers from the pandemic, shoppers are visiting retailers more frequently; 60% of consumers prefer to shop in-store.

It would be easy to attribute this to months of lockdown that had driven consumers ‘mad’ and raring to go out and do ‘regular stuff’. Still, a closer look reveals that this choice is the result of online retailers’ struggle to meet consumer demands, including delivery delays and damaged goods.

That said, shoppers expect improved in-store safety measures to be part of the physical store experience, even post-COVID. 

As such, retailers need to prioritize social distancing mandates, install hand sanitizers and check off other COVID-prevention protocols to keep customers returning and sway public confidence in their favor. 

  1. Renewed Interest in Convenience Shopping 

Modern shoppers have always expected a stress-free shopping experience, and this expectation is now more critical than ever. As a result, convenience shopping is a growing trend that retailers should pay special attention to as the end of the pandemic approaches.

Retailers who want to compete successfully in the post-COVID market must provide their customers with an effortless experience. 

During this time, it will be critical to tailor in-store experiences to accommodate shoppers who want grab-and-go options. Furthermore, quality data would make or break a store’s ability to provide customers with convenient services.

Therefore, retailers will need to track key metrics with smart devices such as a radio-frequency identification or RFID counting system that tracks footfall (the number of shoppers entering a shopping area or shop in a given time) through people counting. Using these devices, they can gain valuable insights that improve business decisions, sales, and profits.  

  1. Push for Omni-Channel Experiences 

The digitization of retail was accelerated due to the pandemic, and it is projected to keep growing even as more customers return to physical shopping. 

Retailers will have to adapt their operations to cater to both in-person and online shopping. Thereby making it easy for customers to purchase wherever they are, easing their shopping journeys as they move from one channel or device to the next.

The key components of these omnichannel retail experiences will include curbside pickup, buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS), and in-store fulfillment. 

This also implies that, in addition to in-store marketing, retailers must retarget their audiences and devote more resources to digital platforms. 

Before the pandemic, digital marketing already played an essential role in how businesses reached out to modern consumers. Post-COVID, the success of a retail brand’s digital advertising strategies will determine sales success and, ultimately, the business’s return on investment.

  1. The Emergence of Value-Based Shopping 

Quality and price are two factors that influence most purchases. However, in the early days of the pandemic, shortages of products and empty store shelves were the norm. At that time, availability became the most influential factor affecting consumer purchasing decisions.

Product shortages have subsided, and many stores have reopened, so availability is no longer an issue. Unfortunately, because the pandemic resulted in job losses and financial uncertainty for many consumers, the retail industry has had to deal with an increase in the percentage of price-conscious consumers. These customers are only looking for the necessities, preferring to save for rainy days.

As a result, industry experts advise retailers to focus on value in their operations and marketing strategy.

  1. Focus on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) 

Because of COVID-19, consumers have begun to be more interested in how retailers approach corporate social responsibility, particularly in response to the pandemic. Most consumers expect brands to protect their health as well as the health of their employees, and they expect brands to follow COVID protocols.

Consumers also believe that retailers should tailor their product marketing to show sensitivity and understanding of how the pandemic has severely impacted everyone. CSR has become such a priority in the eyes of modern consumers that many have reported switching certain brands due to how these have responded to the pandemic situation.

Retailers who make the necessary changes to their CSR strategy and marketing have a better chance of winning over and retaining customers. Many consumers report that how a business responded during the crisis influences their likelihood of purchasing from the retailer in the future.

New Consumer Shopping Behavior Here to Stay 

No one truly knows how long it will take the business marketplace to fully recover from the effects of COVID. Industry experts, however, suggest that some of these new consumer shopping behaviors are here to stay for the long haul.

As retailers and brands continue to navigate the post-COVID world and figure out what their new normal will be, their success will be determined by their understanding of how the pandemic has impacted and continues to impact shopping behaviors. 

As a result, they need to constantly focus on in-store safety, learning what drives shopper purchases, and optimizing in-store and online experiences as a way to stay ahead of the curve and profitably emerge on the other side of the pandemic.

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