COVID-19 marketing: How consumer behaviour turns digital in the 2020 pandemic

There is no question that the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic is keeping people from living their lives as usual. The uncertainty of the crisis has deeply affected the world economy. In their exile from daily routines, consumers now have to find new ways to do their purchases. Even after some countries in recent times have reopened and thereby trying to ‘return to normal’, studies indicate that the pandemic has created a ‘new normal’ for consumers. 

This article investigates some of these findings concerning the effects of COVID-19 on digital consumer behaviour, and what consumers value in post-pandemic times. 

Users abide by a new normal

Many consumers are still functioning in relation to the current crisis. COVID-19 has increased the risk of both health and financial stability. Consumers have become driven by their fear and lack of stability in usual routine patterns. 

At the beginning of the health crisis, we experience people panic-buying, especially food and hygiene products. But in contrast, you would also find people going along with their daily lives, as usual, not following the advice of both health authorities and government. So how do these new user patterns affect commerce?

Consumers value healthier and conscious shopping 

According to surveys made by Accenture, the changes in consumer behaviour during the pandemic crisis are continuously amplifying over time. This is apparent in both countries where the pandemic has settled and in countries where the pandemic is escalating. So what is it that matters to the consumers in pandemic times? 

Making more sustainable choices, limiting food waste, and shopping for healthier food has become the cornerstone for the post-pandemic consumer. As a marketer, this, of course, can affect business models and create new opportunities regarding branding company values. 

Loyalty toward the local community 

Looking deeper into the post-pandemic shopping trends, COVID-19 has affected users’ views on their local community. Many consumers showed their sympathy and acted accordingly for a more ‘caring’ economy. 

A study by McKinsey found that consumer awareness of business effectuating health regulation had an impact on where consumers chose to do their shopping. If businesses didn’t live out the safety precautions protecting both their customers and employees, consumers chose to do their shopping elsewhere. 

Business quickly discovered that they need to get in the game of supporting their employees and bettering their health regulations. Some businesses even went as far as following through with campaigns of giving away free things to show their engagement in the battle against COVID-19. Trying to understand what mechanisms lie behind the changes of these new consumer behaviours we take on a more scientific approach.

The immediate effects of COVID-19 on consumer behaviour

According to a recent study by Jagdish Sheth, a professor in Business at Emory University, consumer behaviour is mainly affected by four aspects: social context, technology, rules and regulations related to the public, and finally force major, such as earthquakes, hurricanes or in this case global pandemics. Also, all user consumption is anchored in time and space, meaning when the consumers have the time to buy and where they can do their purchases. 

Before the pandemic, many working families were restricted in their shopping because of the working hours from 8 am to 5 pm. After the pandemic the possibilities of consuming has been physically limited, meaning that all the usual routines are centred around the home. Food shopping, working, fitness and workout sessions, entertainment, and socializing have been limited to the home. Still craving the same level of stimuli and nourishment, new online opportunities have emerged, ranging from online fitness courses, Zoom meetings, online concerts, and home delivery shopping. 

Consumer improvisation has played a great part in creating these new patterns. Whether you are a digital business or not, it is important to understand how these new restraints have created new and creative outlets for consumers. If you are biding your time waiting for things to ‘return to normal’ you might be limiting your success as a business. Instead, you can use the changes in your consumers’ behaviour to move your business forward. The following presents some of the areas where you might need to rethink your business.

Embracing e-commerce now and in the future

The pandemic turned the industry upside down, leaving more irrational consumer patterns, and a greater need for technology. As the studies above suggest, digital marketing has emerged from the pandemic stronger and even more important. You, therefore, need to secure your digital presence if you want to reach your consumers

Branding for social and health awareness

What are the current politics of your business? Are you doing your part in keeping workers and customers safe, while delivering wares in hygienic packaging? Social awareness is an increasingly important aspect of consumer behaviour, so make sure you understand your consumers’ values and needs.

Improvise, improvise, improvise

The restrictions of the pandemic have taught consumers to improvise. As a business, you need to do the same. Are your company governed by strict processes, then now is the time to make some changes, and ruffle some feathers. 

Always keep your customers up to date through social media with changes in business or supply. You can also use social media platforms to gain insight into your customer base to understand what their specific needs are in this current situation.

Final thoughts

This article has presented some of the current challenges that many businesses face when targeting their consumers. In light of the pandemic, customer behaviour is changing fast. Understanding how your customers have reacted to the pandemic, changing their behaviour accordingly, can present new ways for you to rethink crucial elements of your business – Thereby making it safe and fortunate through the crisis. 


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