How Social Distancing Has Changed Shopping Behaviors

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There is a new normal in regards to shopping, and it involves social distancing. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, day to day life around the world has changed dramatically and consumer behaviour is no exemption to this.

The growing severity of COVID-19 and the subsequent preventative measures that have been brought in by it are affecting everyone, from small independent businesses to the biggest companies in the world. Videoconferencing and remote working is now allowing millions of professionals to stay connected and productive, digital media has seen a significant rise in popularity and shopping as we know it has been altered, possibly for good.

Shopping for items has been reduced to only the essentials, where luxury items or even entire industries, such as travel, have been left struggling to survive. Retailers who have an online presence are now facing unprecedented demands for items to be delivered as the global lockdowns are affecting the very root of how companies have to operate in response to current situations.

The lockdown has forced the majority of people into online shopping, the closure of non-essential retail stores, a reduction in staff availability and huge disruption to supply chains, so understanding how shopping behaviour has changed can be crucial to staying afloat.

Panic Buying

One of the first major changes in behaviour once the outbreak was officially declared a pandemic was a massive increase in panic buying from brick and mortar stores. This was especially the case for products such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other household essentials. Given that the current situation has left many people feeling like they have no control over anything, panic buying is one way they were able to feel like they were wrestling some back.

panic buying

In many instances, this was also due to the general public receiving a lot of contradictory and differing information, both from the government and the media. Coupled with a crowd mentality, whereby people didn’t want to be the only ones without any supplies, the rate of panic buying increased dramatically.

So much so, that supermarkets have had to introduce limits on the number of items one person could buy at a time as well as only allowing a certain number of people into stores at any one time. Both to limit the spread of the virus and prevent stockpiling from certain individuals. While these measures will likely be reduced as life slowly begins to get back to normal, it has been a clear and major shift in the way people can shop at the present time.

Delivery and Online Shopping

Arguably the biggest shift in consumer behaviour recently has been the rise in online shopping and delivery. Online retail sales in the UK have risen by 22% in the first week of April compared to the same time last year and some stores, who previously have not invested resources into online shopping, have now begun to do so to meet customer demands. Aldi, for example, has begun selling groceries online for the first time ever, launching a special box of ‘essentials’ that vulnerable and self-isolating customers can order from their website.

The prevalence and necessary nature of online shopping has seen companies who were previously unwilling to implement it, now incorporate it into their overall strategies. These approaches are more likely to continue to operate once the lockdowns are over as companies will look to streamline and enhance their online shopping and delivery capabilities as customers will have become accustomed to its presence.

Mobile Shopping and Engagement

Mobile usage has increased massively since the outbreak, with more and more people staying at home, the interactions and time spent on different social media platforms has spiked sharply. This, in itself, is the major opportunity for retailers to engage with consumers across their digital platforms in ways that they previously may have been unwilling to do.

Using video and ad campaigns to spread messages of well-being, to offer support and even create online events for your customers to enjoy should be something that everyone is considering doing to help out right now. Not only does it enhance brand presence to a captive audience, but it allows your customers the chance to enjoy themselves and feel part of a community when they need it most. Companies have been putting on music events, quizzes, interactive games, talks, Q&As, interviews and any number of other events through their social platform to spread positivity and reinforce their brand ethos and mentality. While customers may not be looking to purchase from you at the present moment, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to engage with you.

Final Thoughts

Your customers are trying their best to adapt to these strange times but this is leading to a shifting of their behavior. As a business owner, both large and small, you are likely facing a great deal of uncertainty, all while trying to support your customers’ needs as well as your own.

Depending on your industry and audience, your response to the ever-evolving situation will change and will need to continually change. Remaining static at the present time will only lead to problems that will be impossible to deal with. Understanding some of the ways that shopping behaviors are changing is paramount to staying successful during COVID-19 and setting yourself to come out from this situation stronger than before with a more engaged and captive customer base.

If you have any questions or would like any advice as it pertains to your business at the present time, please reach out to us here at Appnova as we would be happy to support you with our industry expertise.

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