Rapidly Changing Behaviors Accelerate Consumer Embrace of New Trends

Rapidly Changing Behaviors Accelerate Consumer Embrace of New Trends

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The acceleration of consumer trends and behavior that was already underway prior to the COVID-19 outbreak has taken another leap forward and will spark consumer-facing companies and retailers to reinvent the way they do business, according to PwC. The findings from two surveys taken before and after the pandemic focus on urban consumer purchasing habits and behaviours, and how global disruption has forced the acceleration of a more digital way of life.

The survey results reveal that the pandemic and the ensuing social distancing measures put in place have led to fundamental changes in how consumers work, eat, communicate, and take care of their health. Measures have affected consumers in all aspects of life, including how they purchase groceries. While in-store grocery shopping is the main channel of choice, over a third of consumers (35%) are now buying food online, with 86% of those who shop online planning to continue after social distancing measures are removed.

For non-food items, prior to the pandemic in-store shopping was still dominant compared to online shopping with 47% of consumers saying they shopped at brick-and-mortar stores daily or weekly compared to shopping via mobile phones (30%), computers (28%) and smart assistants (15%). Since then, online shopping for non-food items has seen a substantial increase. The trend is especially pronounced in China and the Middle East.

59% of millennials and 57% of those with children are placing a greater focus on their wellbeing than other groups. Focus on self-care has increased, with 51% of urban consumers agreeing or strongly agreeing that they are more focused on taking care of their mental health and wellbeing, physical health and diet as a result of COVID-19. Urban dwellers surveyed after the outbreak, viewed safety and security and healthcare just as important to their quality of life as employment prospects, with 49% and 45% of respondents saying so, respectively, compared to 45% for employment.

The research showed a clear embrace of sustainability and a sense of civic duty. For example, in survey results taken prior to the pandemic, 45% of respondents say they avoid the use of plastic whenever possible, 43% expect businesses to be accountable for their environmental impact, and 41% expect retailers to eliminate plastic bags and packaging for perishable items. Interestingly, when asked who were most responsible for encouraging sustainable behaviours in their city, 20% chose “me the consumer,” while 15% chose “the producer or manufacturer.” When asked about their willingness to share data, 49% said they were willing to share their data if it helped improve their city.

“While certain trends have been on the upswing for quite some time, our research shows that the pandemic has sharpened consumers’ desire for transparency, sustainability and convenience. The companies that will reap the most rewards are the ones that have established trust with the consumer, invested in a seamless and frictionless end-to-end customer purchase journey and prioritized the consumers’ health and safety,” says Steve Barr, Global Consumer Markets Leader at PwC US.

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