From virtual showrooms to contactless deliveries, the profound impact of the global pandemic on consumers’ shopping habits is being felt in virtually every industry. In the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we surveyed thousands of Sampler users to better understand their behaviours and sentiments amid the pandemic, and we identified several key trends: they weren't quite ready to shop and sample products in store, they were more open than ever to trying new brands, and they preferred trying a physical product at home over virtual try-on solutions. So what exactly do these patterns in consumer behaviour look like today as the world begins to reopen?
Well, we surveyed over 2800 Sampler users to better understand how social distancing measures have influenced their shopping habits and find out how they’re feeling about buying and discovering new products moving forward. Here’s what we found:
Brand loyalty is decreasing
One recurring and particularly interesting theme we’ve noticed since the early stages of the pandemic is consumers’ willingness to explore and discover new brands. When asked how open they are to trying and consuming new brands and products while social distancing, only 2% said they’re sticking to the brands and products they’re used to while 98% of respondents said they are more open to new ones than before. Though product availability and price sensitivity are likely playing an important role in this shift, brand loyalty continues to be less of a priority for consumers right now.
Their new habits are here to stay
We learned previously that consumers were picking up new hobbies and interests while they retrieved deep into their homes to weather the storm. To find out what exactly they’ve been up, we asked them which activities they’ve increased while social distancing. 74% of consumers said they’re spending more time shopping online, 62% said they’ve been cooking more at home and approximately a third said they were spending time on their self care and beauty routines. Interestingly, it seems that consumers intend to keep these newly adopted activities for the long run. A whopping 96% of respondents indicated they will maintain them after social distancing measures end. This tells us that the new hobbies they adopted during quarantine no longer represent a temporary change in behaviour, but quite possibly a permanent shift in lifestyle.
Food spending is on the rise
Consumers aren’t just changing how they shop, we’re also seeing a shift in what they’re shopping for. When we asked Sampler users what they’re spending more on since the beginning of COVID-19, 81% of respondents said they’re buying more food and snacks, while 71% are buying more household and cleaning products, and 65% said they’re upping the spend on personal care products. We’re also seeing a surge in categories like cosmetics, frozen food, and health and fitness products.
E-commerce continues to soar
Though browsing in store has traditionally been a rewarding and pleasurable experience for consumers, long lineups, empty shelves, and strict protocol have made for an increasingly stressful environment for shoppers. It comes to no surprise that when asked how social distancing measures have affected how they shop, 49% of respondents indicated that they are shopping online more, 20% said they are shopping in-store but making shorter trips and 23% said they are shopping online and picking up in-store or curbside.
And this digital adoption will likely outlast the pandemic
This digital adoption has been one of the most profound changes in shopper behaviour since the beginning of the pandemic. Worldwide lockdowns and consumers’ avoidance of crowded places have intensified the growth in ecommerce and consumers intend to upkeep their new way of shopping permanently. When asked how they expect their online spending to change after COVID-19, 57% of respondents indicated it will stay the same, while 25% said it will increase slightly, and only 11% stated their online spending will decrease post-pandemic. If brands were ever in doubt about the importance of developing digital strategies, this data proves that it's never been more vital for survival.
Product testing adapts to homebound consumers
Before the pandemic, home was a place most consumers spent a fraction of their time in. The pandemic however, quickly turned their humble abodes into a school, office, gym, theater, restaurant and a beauty salon all in one. Interestingly, it appears to have also become their store aisle. This new homebound reality is bringing product trial and discovery directly to consumers’ homes. When asked how they felt about shopping and discovering new products during COVID-19, consumers indicated they prefer to do so from the comfort and safety of their own home with 95% stating they would rather do so over trying and buying products in-store.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had undeniable effects on consumer behaviour, sentiment and spending, many of which will far outlast the current crisis. For consumer packaged goods companies and retailers alike, understanding and adapting to these changes is vital. Brands have a unique opportunity to reshape their marketing strategies to suit their new reality and completely rethink how they build meaningful and lasting connections with their consumers.