Economic anxiety remains high, but we have found a new normal in lockdown even though we miss our lives. We are though already turning towards the next steps as constraints on our lives begin to ease. These are the findings from the fourth wave of Kantar’s COVID-19 Barometer, the leading global study tracking people’s attitudes, behaviours and expectations across more than 50 markets. Kantar has identified three major trends that will remain sticky to shape consumers’ post-pandemic behaviour; a new wave of e-commerce shoppers, an era of value-consciousness and a move toward local consumption.
Across the world anxiety levels are receding from their mid-March peak. Although high levels of concern remain in the 70%+ region, for the second successive research wave, those saying they are very concerned has fallen back. 73% now identify as very concerned compared to 79% in March. As lockdown periods extend in to their second, and in some cases, third month, across the world people are finding new routines and habits and recovering some equilibrium in their lives. Over 40% of people claim to be exercising, reading or sleeping more as coping strategies. More than 50% of people claim to be eating more healthily and trying new recipes. In households with children this reaches almost two thirds (64%). ‘Drysolation’ – avoiding alcohol – remains a consistent choice for about one in five.
Time will show whether these coping strategies embed themselves to become regular habits as lockdown restrictions lift and people’s routines adapt. Kantar has though identified three significant behavioural changes that we believe will remain sticky in a post-pandemic world, and to which consumer products and brands will have to adapt.
· A new wave of digital shoppers will emerge. Already seeing faster growth than any other part of the retail landscape, Kantar believes that ecommerce will further outperform retail in the year ahead. Previous waves of the Barometer research have shown shoppers trying ecommerce for the first time across a range of categories. We also see that usage across established online shoppers has increased significantly. Almost one in three households (32% overall – 40% of households with children) has increased or significantly increased their ecommerce spend in the pandemic period. One in three (33%) households believe their future online purchases will increase. This increases to 40% for the sustainability conscious shopper and almost half (45%) of households with children. The acceleration of the ecommerce boom will create new household names. 38% have said they will continue to buy from the online stores they first visited during the crisis. 31% of shoppers will continue to buy new products and services that they started to buy during the crisis. Every brand scaling their ecommerce channels will need to ensure their online customer experience, including sustainability credentials, supports their brand. Our research shows 25% of online shoppers find the experience less satisfying than visiting a physical store.
· Expect an extended period of value-consciousness. Economic anxiety combined with pessimism about a virus resurgence and the long-term impact of the pandemic leads Kantar to believe that pricing, promotional and value-add strategies will become critical to brands competitiveness. 45% of households have already seen their income fall during the pandemic (up from 38% in Wave 2) with a further 1 in 4 (26%) expect their income to be impacted in the future. There is also wide-spread pessimism about the near-term. Two thirds of people expect that it will take a long time for the economy to recover, and that there will be a long-term impact in terms of job losses and struggling businesses (up from 55% in wave 1). Almost three quarters (72%) of consumers are very or somewhat concerned about a second wave and the reintroduction of a shutdown. In households who have already taken a financial hit this increases to 76%. The percentage of people who say they ‘pay more attention to prices’ has increased from 59% in wave 2 to 68% in wave 4. 45% (vs 40% in wave 2) of people believe companies should help their consumers by offering discounts and promotions. Offering discounts and promotions has become the biggest expectation of brands after the hygiene factors of protecting employees and securing supply lines.
· Localism becomes a mainstream movement. Already important to sustainability-conscious consumers, brands’ sourcing and production strategies will become a more important factor for mainstream shoppers. All over the world, consumers are now more in favour of products that are have been produced locally. 65% of people favour buying goods and services from their own country. This increases for those who consider themselves sustainability active (79%) or engaged (72%). China has become the country most championing ‘buy local’ with 87% expressing this view, followed by Italy (81%), S Korea (76%) and Spain (73%). 42% of consumers say they now pay more attention to the origin of products. In households with children this increases to 52%. One in four consumers think the brands they use should bring production back to their own country, while one in three worry whether they are at a safety risk from products shipped from abroad. Products from China and the US, in particular, are perceived as risky by people in other countries with 60% and 47% respectively saying they are slightly/far less in favour of buying goods and services from those countries.
Commenting on the findings Rosie Hawkins, chief innovation officer, Kantar observed, “We know that periods of disruption accelerate change, and that it takes between one and two months for new habits to become ‘sticky’. We believe these three trends will become important as the world’s biggest brands plan their paths back to healthy growth in the post-pandemic period. Ecommerce, and particularly ensuring a great customer experience needs to become a mainstay of every consumer brand. Successful incumbents will need to watch out for emerging D2C competitors who have been more agile and creative during the lockdown period. New value-add strategies will need to be developed to respond to the economic anxiety that will remain for some time. Brand strategists will need to more closely evaluate their resourcing strategies and explore the opportunities that strong provenance creates.”