What will stay after COVID?

April 5, 2021
Insights

It is no secret that COVID has disrupted the market. Looking at statistics, it becomes obvious that the market hasn’t just been disrupted but has sustainably changed. Even though customer behavior changes drastically depending on cultures, geographies, etc. COIVD has done one thing to every industry. And that is the absolute minimizing of in-person and therefore customer contact. This has also changed how we do business. Research has shown that it takes everywhere from 8 and 254 days to form a new habit; on average, it takes about 66 days (1). Today, consumers are settling for new behavioral patterns every time a new wave comes, resulting in another lockdown. That reinforces an almost entirely virtual business. However, for habits to stay, it needs to have an overwhelming amount of advantages for the customer. The original fear of catching covid has mostly vanished. Virtual telemedicine has had its peak at the beginning of the pandemic yet has dropped ever since. Even though it is still up 50% from before the pandemic, it shows that not every industry must go all virtual (2). Online shopping behavior, on the other hand, will most probably stay. The e-commerce sector has profited from this pandemic more than any other. Since the beginning of COVID back in January of 2019, Amazon stock has risen by over 100%, making one stock worth over $3000. 

A study has found that consumers will most likely continue buying online, even if health risks are no longer given, making online shopping mostly about convenience (3)

“Increased use of digital tools is blurring the lines between work, lifestyle and social interaction and between domains like mobility, health, and finance. We expect this to continue in the post-COVID-19 world.”
– Mahesh H Puttaiah, Senior Economist, Swiss Re Institute

Main changes in consumer behavior

The Swiss Re sees five main changes in consumer behavior (4):

  1. Increased digital adoption: people shifting to digital platforms for day-to-day needs.
  2. Change in mobility patterns: less use of public transport, more remote working, etc.
  3. Change in purchasing behavior: move to value-based purchasing and online shopping.
  4. Increased awareness of health: wearing masks, improved hygiene, healthy eating, etc.
  5. Changes in interpersonal behavior: increased divorce, increased pet adoption, etc.
Figure 1: Expected changes in consumer behavior based on McKinsey Research

Looking at the past and how it changed behavior in the long run, we see one thing that stands out. And that is convenience. 

After the 2001 9/11 attack on the twin towers in NYC, air travel decreased dramatically. However, tightening security and the vanishing concern about privacy concerning safety has made air travel sore to an even greater high than before the attack. Fear vanishes, but human laziness, so to say, stays.

What comes next?

What stays after COVID? A more digital consumer than ever. What does that mean for your business now? RedStreetMedia will release a separate article about the impact of COVID on corporations and the changes needed soon. However, one key takeaway stands out: Digitizing and digital transformation are not the same things. Simply digitizing a business is not enough.

"To win in the post-Covid world, leaders must re-imagine not just how your company works, but also what you do to create value in the digital era."
– Paul Leinwand and Mahadeva Matt Mani, HBR

The pandemic has shown us more than ever that service change and how said service is provided is essential to a sustainable business strategy in a life post-covid. Businesses have to reimagine their place in this economy and think about adapting to the new customer needs. Convenience has become more critical than ever and remains one of the biggest USPs of a product. This will lead to a complete reimagination of many business sectors. But this reimagination does not just happen at the front end. This pandemic has also shown that companies that have already adapted to this world, if not shaped it to a great degree, have had a considerable advantage over others. Mainly the factor of agility and a micro-segmented business has been a key factor in this. 

In conclusion, it is safe to say that COVID has changed business drastically in the long run. 

Sources 

  1. Phillippa Lally Et.al., "How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world", University College London, 16 July 2009.
  2. Bradley Fox and MDJ. Owen Sizemore, "Telehealth: Fad or the Future", Epic Health Research Network, 18 August 2020. 
  3. In a survey of German consumers by Deloitte in June, 40-45% of respondents cited "health concerns" as the key reason for shifting to online shopping across various categories, but the same proportion also cited "convenience", "time savings" and "large assortment online" as reasons for shifting online. Impact of COVID 19 crisis on short and medium-term consumer behavior: will the COVID 19 crisis have a lasting effect on consumption?, Deloitte, June 2020. 
  4. Swissre, “All change: how COVID-19 is transforming consumer behaviour”, Dec 2020

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