At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people were encouraged to stay at home, only leaving their house for the most necessary errands, such as shopping for groceries and other essentials. As different types of stores slowly reopen, however, consumers have become more comfortable with casual shopping, opting to step outside more frequently than during the lockdown period. But is our shopping experience the same as it was before? Has the coronavirus pandemic already transformed our shopping habits, and will it continue to do so in the future?
Supporting the local economy
The coronavirus outbreak has impacted the world economy in quite surprising and unpredictable ways. Unfortunately, this economic uncertainty took a serious toll on smaller, family-owned businesses, forcing them to close down entirely during the pandemic.
For that reason, consumers have become more aware of their local economies, and made an effort to help the smaller businesses in their area survive the pandemic. People are choosing to support their local restaurants, coffee shops, and even dress boutiques, often leaving larger tips than they normally would, in an effort to show encouragement for their communities.
The importance of personal space
As a result of the social distancing guidelines that were strongly recommended, as well as the restrictions on the number of people allowed in smaller spaces that followed, people have began to value their safety and their personal space much more than before during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This subsequently led to consumers mostly visiting physical stores when necessary, and opting out of crowded places such as shopping centers. In California, for instance, outdoor malls and open-air outlet centers have been visited much more frequently than enclosed malls, due to the freedom they allow for when it comes to protecting personal space.
The rise of online shopping
Whether it’s due to the lockdown period, or simply due to the fear of contracting the virus, the popularity of online shopping has drastically increased during the pandemic. Apart from generally internet-based stores like Amazon, this sudden change was also felt by major worldwide chains such as H&M, who are now considering closing down hundreds of their physical stores around the globe, and focusing more on online shopping.
What’s more, this rise in popularity seems to have impacted countries all over the world, even the countries where consumers weren’t quite as used to internet shopping. Along with food and grocery deliveries, people are also opting for new online platforms and retailers such as the popular Shoppster website, where they can buy any equipment they need for their home or themselves, without having to leave their house.
A different shopping experience
Even as people continue to shop on the internet more frequently, the need for traditional, physical shops won’t necessarily disappear. However, there’s no denying consumers will now change their shopping habits and demand that their shopping experience in the store looks entirely different. This kind of behavior can clearly be noticed in the Asian markets, for instance, that have experienced epidemics even before COVID-19.
This can only happen if businesses build trust with their consumers, clearly showing them they are taking all the necessary precautions to provide a healthy and safe shopping experience. Apart from ensuring their stores are neat and clean, many brands are already providing their customers with completely sanitized shopping carts and baskets, or even hand sanitization stations placed at the entrance and around the store.
Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash
Contactless payments and deliveries
The increase in online shopping, in combination with reduced working hours and the limited number of people allowed in stores, lead to some new and innovative concepts that are likely to continue well after the pandemic has passed. Contactless deliveries and curbside pickups are among those new solutions aimed at keeping everyone safe that might actually become the new normal.
When it comes to in-store purchases, customers are similarly encouraged to use contactless methods of payment, such as contactless cards and Apple Pay, in an effort to avoid touching potentially infected surfaces. As consumers get more used to these types of payments, it’s likely they’ll become more common as well.
Evidently, the coronavirus outbreak has already transformed the way we shop, turning us into more socially, economically, and health-conscious consumers. However, our shopping habits might change and develop even further in the future, depending on the severity and the length of the pandemic.