The coronavirus pandemic has not only abruptly introduced our society to a “new normal”, but it has also created a new online consumer that is more price-conscious and convenience-focused than ever before. As many essential items have been out of stock for months and with even mega e-commerce retailers like Amazon struggling to meet the consumer demand, those brands that can continue to provide high-quality products with lightning-fast shipping will quickly dominate. Studies have found that the crisis consumer has become 3x more likely to research1 a product before buying it online and are expected to cut their overall spending by up to 50%.2 

Here are the top three ways the current COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped how consumers buy:

Consumers are gravitating to brands that have ample inventory. When surveyed 36% of people now say that they prefer to buy from brands3 that could guarantee stock availability and reliable shipping. With many brands struggling to keep products in stores, consumers are now more willing than ever to switch brands if that means a consistent buying experience, with minimal delays and stock outages. But this comes with a large caveat. Although consumers want fast and convenient, they are willing to wait for their online purchases if it means that the company is using safety protocols to keep both workers and customers safe.

Consumers are only willing to buy from brands they trust. As many “pop up” online stores are becoming the norm, trying to capitalize on the online buying frenzy, consumers are being more selective with who they buy from. And as experts expect data breaches to also increase with more online purchasing, this heightened sense of consumer discretion is likely here to stay. Marketing experts have found that when asked, 40% of consumers ranked trust4 as the single most significant factor influencing their purchasing decisions during the pandemic.

Consumers are choosing brands with a focus on giving back. Ballooning unemployment, topping 30 million new jobless claims5 since the beginning of April, many consumers are limiting normal everyday purchases. When they do buy, 78% of consumers6 are actively looking for those brands that are helping to alleviate the plight of those in need during this global health crisis. The more pandemic outreach a brand is engaged in, the better, especially as consumer groups are emerging on social media, tracking which brands are helping ravaged communities and which are not.

As the pandemic continues to evolve, how consumers buy and what factors will influence their purchasing decisions will become a must-watch topic. However, the key for marketers to capture this now at-home audience will be in crafting messaging that tailor to their immediate needs of convenience, safety, and trust. Consumers want to be reassured that they will get the products and services they need, at a fair price, and as safely as possible. For companies that can consistently deliver this in all of their messaging across online platforms, they will effectively be able to carve out a large competitive advantage.


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