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Pre-pandemic and Pandemic Consumer Behavior

Introduction

Commerce is among the spheres, on which the pandemic of COVID-19 has had a considerable influence. The purchasing power of the population, the use of various payment methods, and the offline and online shopping rates – each of these aspects have undergone noticeable changes. The most substantial reframing, however, occurred in the values, motives, needs, and preferences of the consumers, hence in their behavior. Specifically, the quarantine has favored spending time in family circles, and the fear of the infection, as well as its consequences, has awakened interest in a healthy lifestyle in people around the globe. This boosted the demand for relevant goods and services, to which new circumstances both physical and online stores had to adapt rapidly. There is a high probability that the pandemic-related changes in consumer behavior will be long-term and become the new normal.

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Hierarchy of Needs

Biology

Maslow’s theory doubtlessly provides the most illustrative presentation of human motivations, which becomes especially apparent in an emergency. Thus, the bottom level of the pyramid stands for physiological needs, including food (Duygun and Şen, 2020). Meanwhile, the pandemic deprived many people of the possibility to eat in canteens and/or restaurants, hence encouraging them to search for alternative ways to satisfy their hunger. This explains such changes in consumer behavior as the 25% growth in sales of frozen products or 11% and 27%, respectively, for perishable and non-perishable groceries (Leinwand et al., n.d., para. 3). In fact, the quarantine has favored the formation of new eating habits that apparently will remain in a considerable share of the population after its end.

Safety

The next level of the pyramid represents the need for security, which has become acute. Particularly, people have focused more closely on the quality of their nutrition, whether to avoid being infected or to strengthen their organisms in general. The growth in the popularity of green food is not the only subsequent tendency; more and more consumers seek additional transparency in supply chains (PwC, 2021). Simply stated, safety concerns encourage people to inquire where and how the products that they consume have been grown or made. This is one of the possible sources of another trend, which is, for instance, currently observable in Romania (Butu et al., 2020). Wright and Blackburn (2020) identify it as “buy local” since it lies in an apparent preference for home food products rather than imported (para. 7). Most probably, the population considers the former more trustworthy in safety terms.

Another health-related tendency is the turn to hygiene and disinfection which is also probable to be continuous. Notably, household and cleaning supplies are on the list of the goods whose sales grew substantially with the beginning of the pandemic; the increase equals not less than 25% (Leinwand et al., n.d., para. 4). Mehta, Saxena, and Purohit (2020) place preventive healthcare, which includes disinfecting measures, third in the list of the spheres that are probable to progress during the pandemic, particularly, in India. In addition, sharing services are experiencing a downturn due to the risk of infection (Deloitte, 2020). These shifts mark the increased concern about the cleanliness of the environment that is becoming the new routine. Furthermore, at least 48% of consumers across the world report the intention to maintain their newly formed habits “over the long term” (Leinwand et al., n.d., para. 7). This allows assuming that society will continue to focus on hygiene after the pandemic ends.

Esteem, Recognition

As soon as the basic needs are satisfied, socially become active, simply stated, those for interacting with the other as well as their approval. Alongside the additional free time, this inspires people to start new hobbies and/or improve their skills in existing, which frequently requires new acquaintances. Notably, not less than 28% have tried something, for which they had lacked time or motivation before, and decided to continue (Leinwand et al., n.d., para. 7). Considering the unreasonableness of leaving home except when necessary, the activities include, in particular, art, reading, video games, gardening, and other.

The sales of hobby-related goods consequently skyrocketed with the beginning of the worldwide lockdown. Thus, according to Gerlich (2021), the growth in demand for books, games, and movies varies from one piece of art to another between 25% and 52% (p. 2431). Furthermore, many consumers have become creators, in other words, begun to practice art themselves, for instance, playing music or cooking exotic dishes. Sheth (2020) labels this the “discovery of talent” and highlights that a certain share of those new producers has “commercial possibilities” (p. 282). The fact that such content becomes viral proves this statement and allows mentioning creative experiments among the post-pandemic trends in consumer behavior.

Self-fulfillment

The duration as well as the extent of lockdowns forced the population to cease many of their usual pastimes, such as attending gyms, cafes, cinemas, or others. Consequently, people began to seek new sources of satisfaction, among which, shopping is the most common and available (Mihić and Kursan Milaković, 2017). The need for enjoyment, in turn, promotes experiments; thus, according to Charm et al. (2020), 75% of US consumers have tried new brands, stores, or ways of shopping during the quarantine. The search for wider experience subsequently is possible to mention among the key consumer motivations in the context of the pandemic.

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It is worth noting that such behavior of purchasers has a psychological origin, notably, derives from the need for strong emotional feedback and a sense of purpose. This corresponds to the upper level of Maslow’s pyramid, at which self-actualization lies (Duygun and Şen, 2020). Surprise or delight, in turn, can encourage an individual to opt for the brand, product, or service constantly, favoring a formation of a new habit (Charm et al., 2020). In this case, his or her motivation is repetitive enjoyment, which grows especially strong during periods of crisis but can remain substantial long after they end. The pandemic, therefore, has given providers of goods and services a chance to gain new loyal customers and possibly enter new markets.

In-store versus Online Shopping

Minimizing physical contact with the other doubtlessly is the most significant point that a quarantine presupposes. The rapid spread of COVID-19 caused prolonged and strict lockdowns, which, in turn, forced people across the world to opt for online communication constantly. The predictable consequence is the boost of e-commerce; however, it is not likely to replace offline shopping completely since certain categories of physical stores and service providers benefited from the pandemic as well.

Motivations for Purchasing Online

As said above, safety is among the basic needs, and staying in isolation remains among the most effective ways to prevent the transmission of the infection. Therefore, according to Leinwand et al. (n.d.), up to half of the consumers avoided leaving their homes, apparently at the early stages of the crisis (para. 1). The rates of online purchases grew appropriately, and the increase in demand for home delivery reached 20% (Leinwand et al., para. 4). This service primarily involved the necessities, such as frozen and convenience food, cleaning supplies, personal care, and medicine. It is worth noting that 82% of those who migrated online were anxious for the health of others and only 62% for their own (Wright and Blackburn, 2020, para. 7). Simply stated, safety concerns encouraged the population to embrace digital commerce.

In addition to minimizing physical contacts, e-services allow for rapidness and convenience which are among the reasons why people find them appealing and opt for further use. This grew especially important, considering the chance to devote more time to favorite activities and/or nearest people that lockdowns provided. Online shopping makes it possible to choose, order, pay for, and receive the necessary goods without getting distracted from the desirable pastime. Furthermore, digital commerce frequently offers more customer-oriented return policies, which 31% of consumers also mention among its attractions (PwC, 2021). Due to the possibility of faster and more comfortable shopping, electronic platforms and services doubtlessly will remain popular beyond the pandemic.

Motivations for Purchasing from Offline Stores

Notwithstanding the above tendencies, it would not be reasonable to proclaim the obsolescence of in-store purchasing for several reasons. First, those who are full and feel secure require friendship and other forms of connections, which encourages them to socialize (Duygun and Şen, 2020). Second, not all goods are easy to buy online, for instance, nutrition is one of the most ambiguous categories. While frozen and/or packed products can be delivered home, ready-made food or perishable groceries are considerably less reliable in these terms. Thus, the population of Germany still buys approximately 1% of food with the help of digital services; before the quarantine, no more than one-third of the locals had tried that (Deloitte, 2020, p. 7). Simply stated, the convenience, hence reasonableness of online shopping is strongly dependent on what exactly an individual is willing to purchase.

In addition, as it has already been said, the pandemic turned people’s attention to how their food reached them and consequently launched the trend of supporting local producers and distributors. It extended to other categories of goods soon and developed into a new pattern of consumer behavior, specifically, buying both items of home manufacture and from “community stores” (Wright and Blackburn, 2020, para. 11). While digital commerce limits the transparency of supply chains, purchasing from neighboring retailers improves it and consequently attracts the population. Another possible reason is the strengthening of the emotional connection to the communities, which 80% of consumers report as the consequence of compulsory isolation (Wright and Blackburn, 2020, para. 13). Therefore, the attendance of physical stores that had not closed remained sufficient throughout the quarantine.

Finally, it is relevant to highlight that not all categories of consumers are ready to migrate online. Thus, the research by Deloitte (2020) has shown that the vast majority of the customers of e-commercial services had become those before the quarantine. Simply stated, people who already know how to use online shopping platforms prefer them to physical stores, while those who have little to no experience are hardly willing to try.

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Another group to mention in the given context comprises those who cannot work remotely, including medical professionals, police officers, drivers, and others. Being not bound to stay home, such individuals consequently have a less substantial need for e-services; their share may reach 50% (Leinwand et al., n.d., para. 1). Eventually, a certain percentage of the population did not consider the quarantine restrictions and adapt their routines accordingly, hence continued to shop offline. In general, a measurable amount of people continued to visit physical stores regularly during lockdowns and will do that in the future.

Conclusion

The pandemic of COVID-19 has had a noticeable influence on consumer behavior around the globe that will most probably be long-term. The needs and motivations of buyers have changed, deriving from the reconsideration of their values. Among those is the focus on health and, consequently, the quality of food. This encouraged people to give their preference to neighboring stores and home manufacturers, as such a strategy allows for maximal clarity of supply chains. The desire for the latter is one of the reasons why the population continued to buy from physical stores since e-commerce is less transparent.

The overall popularity of digital shopping, nevertheless, has skyrocketed, mostly in response to extra leisure time. Notably, the additional possibility to practice hobbies encouraged people to try new activities or become acquainted with new artworks, which increased the demand for the appropriate goods. Besides this, many individuals have enjoyed the benefits of online purchasing, such as rapidness, comfort, and no need for physical contact, which is especially valuable in the pandemic. Subsequently, many of those who tried e-commerce successfully are probable to continue using such platforms and services after the end of the quarantine, actually making them the new normal.

Reference List

Butu, A., et al. (2020) ‘The Impact of COVID-19 crisis upon the consumer buying behavior of fresh vegetables directly from local producers. Case study: The quarantined area of Suceava County, Romania’, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17, pp. 5485-5509. Web.

Charm, T., et al. (2020) Understanding and shaping consumer behavior in the next normal. Web.

Deloitte (2020) Impact of the COVID-19 crisis on short- and medium-term consumer behavior: Will the COVID-19 crisis have a lasting effect on consumption? Web.

Duygun, A. and Şen, E (2020) ‘Evaluation of consumer purchasing behaviors in the COVID-19 pandemic period in the context of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’, Pazarlama Teorisi ve Uygulamaları Dergisi, 6 (1), pp. 45-68.

Leinwand, P., et al. (n.d.) Evolving priorities: COVID-19 rapidly reshapes consumer behavior. Web.

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Mehta, S., Saxena, T., and Purohit, N. (2020) ‘The new consumer behaviour paradigm amid COVID-19: Permanent or transient?’, Journal of Health Management, 22(2), pp. 291-301. Web.

Mihić, M. and Kursan Milaković, I. (2017) ‘Examining shopping enjoyment: personal factors, word of mouth and moderating effects of demographics’, Economic Research-Ekonomska Istraživanja, 30(1), pp. 1300-1317. Web.

PwC (2021) What’s next: How consumer goods leaders envision tomorrow. The Consumer Goods Forum.

Sheth, J. (2020) ‘Impact of Covid-19 on consumer behavior: Will the old habits return or die?’, Journal of Business Research, 117, pp. 280-283. Web.

Wright, O., and Blackburn, E. (2020) COVID-19: How consumer behavior will be changed. Web.

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