June 30, 2020

Three human truths: how COVID-19 will impact consumer behavior

Mary Carroll


Did you ever think we’d live in a world where toilet paper was considered a hot commodity? Where a cloth mask was a must-have fashion accessory? Our world has been turned upside down. The word "normal" has a new definition, and we have new perspectives—ultimately affecting our consumption.

As our strategy team studies the effect of COVID-19 on consumer behavior, we’ve uncovered three emerging human truths. This “new normal” ultimately impacts brand strategies moving forward.

Navigating the Unknown

The rest of the year is full of question marks. Will the trip we booked in July still go on? Is now the right time to move? The big purchases people looked forward to at the beginning of the year are now potentially on hold. 

Accenture found, “People are postponing purchase decisions in many categories due to uncertainty.”

Not to mention, there’s a shared concern around people and places possibly posing an invisible threat. What used to be a mindless trip to your favorite restaurant is now an overwhelming experience.

According to Global Web Index, almost 50% of consumers say they will not visit shops “for some time” or “for a long time.”

What You Can Do:

It’s incredibly important that brands build trust with consumers—give them relief in making big decisions. Messaging should inspire confidence—not make them question their decisions.

The Virtual Life

With the uncertainty around this invisible threat, consumers will continue to look for experiences online. If there’s an option for a virtual experience, consumers are more likely to opt-in digitally rather than go in-person. 

Consumers have discovered the conveniences that come with virtual habits. For example, online grocery shopping was emerging slowly prior to COVID. However, as consumers found “safer” ways to navigate grocery shopping, there was an increase in online food purchasing. According to Ad Age, “nearly 40 percent of current online grocery shoppers made their first online grocery purchase in March.” It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s expected to remain a habit for people post-pandemic because of the convenience.

What You Can Do:

New online experiences are being created and will continue to emerge. It’s important to consider your customer journey and think of new ways to meet consumers where they are—online. Now is absolutely the time to build an online customer experience.

Finding Value in Everything

With more time to reflect, consumers are starting to see the value of downtime — whether it’s with family and friends or with their current possessions. Laddering back up to the first point, consumers are going to buy things that bring value to their life—that not only makes an impact in their life but also their community. 

According to an EY report, “Today, a third of consumers strongly agree with the suggestion that they will reappraise the things they value most and not take certain things for granted. And more than a quarter say they pay more attention to what they consume and what impact it has.”

As we saw our favorite local boutiques and restaurants close their doors, consumers rallied together to shop local. Curiosity was also inspired to create the #SaveCincy campaign to help small businesses survive the impact of the crisis. Consumers want their purchases to represent more than just a transaction.

What You Can Do:

Provide a local, community experience designed for your consumers. Show them how your brand makes an impact in their community and how your product is valuable. Consumers want to make a difference and they want to see that the brands they’re buying from are, too.

Our new normal has launched trends we saw before the pandemic right to the forefront. Now is the time to look back at strategies to assess what’s working and how you can “future-proof” it. 

While you’re at it, don’t forget to include your new cloth mask.

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