How the pandemic changed us as consumers — and what companies are doing about it

As some cities begin to relax Covid-19 restrictions, we continue to see how the pandemic has changed us as consumers. Early results on consumer habits confirm research Accenture conducted with 9,650 people in 19 countries a few months ago. In short, we are living differently. We are working differently. We are socializing differently. And our purchasing patterns have shifted — in some cases, permanently.

The fallout for consumer goods companies is that many are left playing catch-up. But some are using the shifts to fuel their own transformation — innovating to meet the “new” consumer.

Let’s break these three consumer trends down.

1. Home is where the heart is.

While many of us tired of being home during the pandemic, we also made home a cozy place to be. We’ve entered what Accenture calls the “decade of the home.” For example, a majority of consumers are shopping closer to home and say they plan to continue after the pandemic. And when they’re not shopping locally, they’re shopping online.

During the past year, some consumers resorted to local brands they had not tried before due to supply chain issues for some global brands. In the Washington, D.C. market, approximately one in three consumers (32%) say they are increasing their purchases of small local brands only available in the area.

Companies are taking note of the local trend. As a result, we see a host of cottage brands now being incorporated into large chains in an effort to provide local flavor. From Whole Foods’ 48,000-square-foot hyper-local Tampa store to Hy-Vee’s Go Fresh/Go Local section, which features produce grown within 200 miles of the store by local farmers, retailers and consumer goods companies are trying to satisfy consumers close to home with local goods.

2. We are comfortable shopping for almost anything online.

A large share of the exponential growth seen over the past year came from infrequent ecommerce users. Consumers that had used online channels for less than 25% of their purchases prior to the pandemic increased their online purchases by nearly 3.5 times (343%).

As consumers embrace the ease and speed of online shopping, physical stores will need to be reimagined to become more centers of experience and experimentation. We continue to see an increase in pop-up stores inside bigger chain stores, both to offer an enhanced experience as well as a greater, constantly changing variety of goods.

3. We want a safe, comfortable third space.

As workers ask for greater flexibility in where they work, more than three-quarters (79%) of respondents said they would like to occasionally work from a “third space” — a location other than their home or place of employment. More than half said they would be willing to pay up to $100 per month out of their own pockets to work from a café, bar, hotel, or retailer with a dedicated space. In Washington, D.C, 37% of people ranked a café or coffee shop first on their list of third places, offering an opportunity for retailers.

Analytics and cloud: The innovation enablers

The red thread that runs through all three of these trends is analytics and cloud.

Companies will need advanced analytics to determine which consumer trends are here to stay. I’ve seen the magic that happens when companies create a Living Customer Profile to give them a 360-degree view of their consumer. They can begin to predict what the consumer will want in different situations and contexts, creating not just a hassle-free experience but one that truly engages the consumer and creates or deepens a brand relationship. Almost nine out of 10 consumer packaged goods executives (89%) agree that analytics are critical to their success.

Cloud provides the speed, scale and power needed for companies to run analytics, generate insights and then change their operating model to innovate accordingly. Brewer Carlsberg shifted 100% of its systems and applications from a legacy to cloud environment in a matter of months. As its CIO, Sarah Haywood, put it: “With cloud, our network capacity is 10 times what it was. Our people get to focus on things that make a difference for our customers. And, that is closing the gap.“

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the importance of supply chain. The pandemic highlighted how very crucial supply chains are to consumers’ well-being and satisfaction.

Leading innovators are using the changes in consumer habits to build better, more responsive — and ultimately, more predictive — businesses. I can’t wait to see where it takes us.



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