Altered Consumer Behavior Patterns
Charles Duhigg in his book ‘The Power of Habit’ mentions that it takes an average of 66 days to permanently change a habit or break a behavior pattern, a fact that is backed by research. In all parts of the world, there have been significant changes in consumer behavior, that were brought about by the stark reality of a global pandemic. These altered behaviors, a part of “the new normal”, are here to stay.
Businesses and companies are grappling with these evolving consumer patterns! As they take on the challenge of pivoting to cater to customers' changing needs, they also face the possibility that these new habits might just be temporary, and consumers could fall back into old routines, once the pandemic is behind us.
What are the Key Changes in Consumer Behavior?
When we take a look closer, many changes in behavior patterns, that were enforced and speeded up by Covid-19, were already gaining traction prior to it. Let’s look at a few of them.
Re-Evaluating their Priorities
Consumer mindsets have shifted to embrace a larger set of values, in the way they shop and live their lives. Given the new state of affairs and unpredictability of life in general, people are viewing the mindless pursuit of possessions as irrelevant. A higher sense of purpose and the greater good of humanity, are behind many consumer purchase decisions.
Growth of E-Commerce
It comes as no surprise that consumers prefer to shop from the comfort of their homes. Ease of purchase and the convenience of getting everything, (yes, everything!) delivered to your home has been an obvious choice with lockdowns and social distancing. This permanently altered behavior trend of online shopping is certainly growing exponentially. But businesses have also come to the quick realization, that consumers still expect high service standards, even when it comes to e-commerce. The companies that will survive and thrive in the new e-commerce reality, are those that keep an eye on enhancing every step of the online consumer journey experience.
About a decade ago, creating a sustainable lifestyle was a ‘thing', reserved for the few planet-friendly people around the world. But that is no longer the case, as the general public is waking up to the truth about climate change, global warming, and the high carbon footprint created by businesses that are not environmentally conscious. The new consumer wants to know product origin stories, and the entire life cycle of creation and delivery for every item that touches their life; from personal care, clothes, and food to the way their homes are built.
In days gone by, consumers looked at the concept of a brand more like a bragging right. But modern-day consumers examine their brands to make sure they are meeting their evolved set of standards, preferring to support companies that are built on a unified brand message of what they represent. Simply put, consumers are asking questions like “how does this brand make me feel?” before they shop. The best part, they are willing to pay a higher price for such brands.
Health and Safety
The pandemic has created a sense of urgency to relook at every product and lifestyle choice from a health and safety angle. Buyers are now more aware that the quality of the materials used to make their products, and the manner in which they are transported to the end-user, are as important as, its price and convenience.
Challenges in Handling the New Normal in Consumer Behavior
Many of the changes in consumer buying patterns are subtle and difficult for businesses to pivot to swiftly. Here are some of the core challenges of serving the needs of the new customer profile, while maintaining a decent profit margin, which is essential for a good business.
Online shopping has led to consumers sitting in their homes while engaging with a business. This is unknown territory for most companies who are accustomed to in-person shopping at brick-n-mortar locations, where customer behavior is simpler to read, and their feedback is easily available. Today, businesses have trouble understanding the nuances of why a customer shuts their e-commerce tab and moves on to a competitor’s site.
Large companies find it harder to pivot their set ways of thinking, whether it is setting up an online delivery model, or introducing sustainable practices into their company’s DNA, which might not be geared for such changes.
E-commerce is on the rise and has been the safety net for many companies that needed to keep their light on during the many lockdowns and uncertainties of the last few years. But the new logistics and delivery models come with complexities that can get expensive, especially if they don’t produce results quickly and consistently.
Supply chain issues continue to plague almost every industry and have become a global challenge, due to the highly interdependent nature of international trade. Catering to evolving behavior patterns, while trying to manage the right levels of inventory is a balancing act that few companies are currently able to manage successfully.
So, what are the next steps for businesses in handled these altered consumer behavior patterns? Irrespective of the kind of industry a company is operating in, the larger picture shows a need for patience, agility, and the flexibility to pivot only as needed. The best way to serve one’s customers is to build a company culture based on the right values, serving the greater good for their customers, stakeholders, and our planet. Invariably, profits will follow.