The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented and instantaneous shifts in our work life, in school, in our families and our personal emotional well-being. This disruption to the world around us and our lifestyles has caused dramatic changes in our short-term behavior as consumers. We have seen the shift most noticeably in the retail shopping experience – the empty shelves due to panic buying and hoarding of paper goods, cleaning and disinfectant products, and long-life food items such as pasta and canned goods.
We’ve witnessed so far two phases to COVID-19 induced behavior disruption:
PHASE 1 – SURVIVAL INSTINCTS
The key behavioral changes marking this phase of the pandemic were panic buying and retail multi-sourcing to stock up on staples. To avoid the previous behavior of making multiple fill-in trips, consumers began taking fewer trips to fewer stores overall, but were spending more per trip.
In the early months of COVID-19, consumers also began shifting where and how they were shopping. According to a survey by the Food Industry Association, consumers shopped for grocery items online 28% more because of the pandemic, with 10% of consumers no longer shopping at stores altogether.
PHASE 2 – THE “NEW NORMAL” ROUTINE
As many parts of the country were virtually shut down with more and more consumers working from home, the emphasis on shopping locally grew. With consumers settling into a new type of nesting behavior, they began planning their purchases more and became less exploratory in their shopping. Consumers are spending more on essentials and less on discretionary categories. They are planning out their purchases and looking for shelf-stable foods and essentials. Coinciding with this was a return to nostalgia items like macaroni and cheese and canned soups. Consumers were seeking out items that offer emotional comfort and items with a longer shelf life.
Whether these shifts in consumer behavior caused by COVID-19 reflects a persistent, ongoing “new normal” or whether this is merely transitory behavior brought about by an overwhelming response to the pandemic is too early to tell. In certain sectors of the economy, behavior changes are likely to be more permanent, such as less travel and use of public transportation as more and more businesses allow people to work from home. When it comes to the consumption of everyday items in CPG, the ripple effects are still playing out. Changes in behavior over a prolonged period of time are nascent new habits, which may take hold and have long lasting implications on shopping and consumption behavior that will only become evident in the months to come.
What other trends are you noticing in your local stores?
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