The Covid-19 pandemic is reshaping so much about the way we live, work, connect, consume and even think – and it is all happening so quickly. Trends that have been progressing steadily for years have been suddenly accelerated to a degree no one could have predicted. At the same time, consumer demand and channel preferences have seen large and sudden shifts. Digital commerce, for example, is expected to have increased by a huge 160 per cent among new or previously low-frequency shoppers, accord
ording to Accenture research. Throughout the crisis, Accenture has been monitoring these evolving patterns of consumer behaviour, highlighting the new habits being formed and the profound changes that are happening in what we value and the way we shop. One conclusion is inescapable: the crisis will define consumption for the next decade. Many of the changes we’re seeing are likely going to be permanent. There’s no going back to the pre-pandemic world for consumer brands. Conscious consumers So, what can we say about the post-pandemic consumer? Unsurprisingly, they remain concerned about the health impacts of Covid-19, although it’s notable that where infection has stabilised, health fears have subsided. Personal hygiene habits have changed dramatically, with 90 per cent of people handwashing more often and 79 per cent cleaning surfaces in the home more frequently. This focus on staying clean and healthy will likely remain for some time to come, with proof of good hygiene becoming a key part of brands’ ability to retain shoppers’ trust. Economic anxiety remains high across the board, even in locations where outbreaks are subsiding. The proportion of consumers now worried about their personal job security (65 per cent) is the highest we’ve recorded since the pandemic started. The fact is, as part of their reset strategies for the months ahead, brands will need to adapt to a higher number of consumers inclined to tighten the purse strings. Connecting with the home One inevitable consequence of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders is that the home has become the heart of the consumer experience. As well as surging to digital commerce, consumers are switching to omnichannel services like home delivery, digital chat and virtual consultations. Brands will need to step up their digital capabilities to meet these new preferences. There are socially positive sides to this recentring around the home too. Nearly four in five households with children say they’re feeling more connected as a family. And with more time to spare, three in five consumers have been taking the opportunity to build their skills in areas like cooking and homebrewing. More than half have been working on home improvement. Savvy brands can tap into this creative experimentation and these newfound passions to build deeper affinity with their customers. Think safety, think small How permanent is the shift to home consumption? It looks certain to outlive lockdowns and stay-at-home orders at least. Our research shows that even as economies start to reopen, many people remain uncomfortable about visiting public places. Brands and retailers will need to think carefully about how to make their physical retail spaces safe and reassuring if they want to tempt customers back into stores. One way to do so might be to think small and local. Demand for local goods – and local brands – is growing. Our research shows more consumers want to shop at neighbourhood stores and want to buy more locally sourced produce. Brands can respond to this demand by looking to highlight the local provenance of their products. They should also consider working with smaller-format local stores and venues, helping them adapt to new social distancing and sanitisation requirements at the same time. Pandemic fatigue Initially, consumers responded positively to the steps public and private organisations (including consumer product companies) were taking to manage the pandemic. The picture now is more mixed, with our research showing an 8 per cent drop in people who feel the crisis is being handled well by those organisations. This is an opportunity for brands that can get their post-pandemic response and messaging right. Those that can show they’re taking the right actions – and can adopt the right tone – can get a competitive boost over their peers. This will be especially relevant in areas like brand responsibility, where the business should be looking at how it can support communities and positively impact the planet as societies manage the aftermath of Covid-19. Coming through stronger We’re all yearning for a return to some kind of normality, but the reality is the world has changed, and with it, people’s attitudes, consumption preferences and shopping behaviour. Brands can use this moment of unprecedented disruption as an opportunity to reset and reinvent the business for a more uncertain world and a new set of consumer desires and expectations. Michelle Grujin is the managing director of retail for Australia and New Zealand at Accenture and has over 20 years of hands-on experience in the retail industry.