April 3, 2023

The Pandemic's Persistent Effects on User Behavior


What is Consumer Behaviour?

Consumer behaviour is an important and constant decision-making process of searching, purchasing, using, evaluating, and disposing of products and services.

After liberalisation in India, consumer behavioural patterns have been explained by many approaches in the borderless globalised world, while defeating individual identity and giving rise to collective identity through brand culture. The intermittent waves of ‘Swadeshi’ and ‘back to basics’ propagated by social leaders like Baba Ramdev or Gandhian minimalistic lifestyle also emerged as a behavioural approach.

What are the Post covid Behavioural changes?

Earlier studies were indicative of behavioural changes among consumers in times of crises with significant change in utility pattern.

A study conducted by Flatters and Wilmott (2009) identified few new trends during crises which include simplification of demand because of limited offers during crises which tends to continue post-crisis where people buy simpler offerings with great value.

The study also reported that even the rich people, post-crisis expressed dissatisfaction with excess consumption and focused on recycle and teach their children simple and traditional values.The most central trends in crisis include the demand for simplicity, which indicates that consumers seek uncomplicated, value-oriented products and services that simplify their lives. People are spending less of their income on items perceived as nice-to-have or non-essential (such as clothing, shoes, make-up, jewellery, games and electronics).

A survey on Indian consumer sentiments during the coronavirus crisis was carried out by Mckinsey from 1–4 May 2020. The result indicated:

  • 76 percent of consumers out of the sample strongly agreed to spend their money carefully and cut back on their purchase.
  • Lower-income and younger consumers show a higher propensity to plan to reduce their spending, while older and higher-income groups exhibit more resilience and are more likely to expect to maintain or increase their spending.

A noticeable change in consumer’s attitudes, behaviours and expectations has also been conveyed by research agency Kantar in their report on ‘Market Dynamics During COVID- 19: Indian Consumer Sentiments Analysis’ (2020). This survey was carried out with 18+ years of consumers, covering a sample of 11,000 households, 19 cities and 15 states across India.

  • Consumers conveyed heavy concern about pandemic and observed that disruption (45% of respondent) bothers them more than health concerns (31%).
  • The survey also reported significantly reduced spends across physical as well as online formats.
  • Survey also reported about planned purchases being deferred and a new learning to live with less
  • The survey points out the consumers’ interest in saving through investments, insurance, health and hygiene products

Accenture consumer research (2020), conducted between 2–6 April also reported-

  • During this COVID-19 outbreak, a rise in consumer’s concern has led to change in priorities of consumers which is now centred around most basic needs, sending demand only for hygiene, cleaning and staples products, while non-essential categories slump.
  • The desire to shop local is also reflected in the products which consumers buy and the way they buy to support local stores as they consider them a more sustainable option.

Besides a change in spending pattern, greater use of ecommerce touch points for shopping as various digital platforms—namely official site of products, social media and mobile platforms—has been used by consumers during the pandemic which had led to the digitalisation in buying, and this digitalisation of consumer shopping journey will increase with weaker presence of traditional outdoor advertising and shopping malls visit due to physical distancing.

These technology platforms are expected to play a strong role in terms of reaching, creating awareness, transaction and retention of consumers post-COVID along with word of mouth (Deloitte, 2020).

This trend is reflected in the types of apps that consumers are downloading, related to entertainment, news, healthcare and education as reported by (Accenture, 2020).
Indian consumers too have adopted new behaviours with a comparatively higher level of optimism in comparison to European nations. It is also important to notice that top concerns of Indian consumers were personal, family safety and overall public health (McKinsey, 2020)

All in all, consumer preferences will realign sharply away from luxury brands and travel, towards health and hygiene and personal care.

Change In The Buying Behavior That Will Last Forever.

With pay cuts and uncertainty about jobs, they are worried about whether they can buy for their basic needs. Finally, they are all experiencing the loss of freedom that they had once taken for granted.

The Start Of A New Digital Era

  • Isolation has led to people to embrace technology more than ever
  • The way people are spending their leisure time is also becoming more dependent on technology
  • Once they get used to the convenience of online shopping, consumers will be slow to come back to brick-and-mortar retailers.

Witness Exemplary Growth in Demand For Hand Care & Hygiene Products

  • With increasing concerns for health and safety, hygiene as a category will see a big boost — not just in the immediate term but even in the middle to long-term as hygiene practices shift permanently.
  • Products like Sanitizers and Handwashes will now see massive penetration even in Tier 2 and 3 towns and rural areas.

Covid-19 has brought major shifts in customer behaviour :

  • The reluctance to shop in a crowded store and increased propensity towards digital,” (Neha Rawla, head, brand communications at Forest Essentials) told The Indian Express.
  • Other beauty brands like SoulTree and Kaya have seen approximately 30 per cent increase in their online sales.
  • E-commerce company Myntra saw over 7 lakh first-time customers during their ‘End of Reason Sale’. The company said that 56 per cent of the sales were in Tier-2 cities, including Guwahati, Bhubaneswar, Dehradun, Imphal, Aizawl and Panchkula.