This article is part of Raydiant’s Consumer Behavior series which interviews top industry experts to better understand the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on consumers, how businesses can adapt to these changes and how it will shape shopping experiences in the future.
The following is an interview we had with Geoff Malleck, Continuing Lecturer, Department of Economics, Faculty of Arts, University of Waterloo.
How has consumer behavior evolved over the past 5 years?
GM: The rate of change on consumer behavior has accelerated. While key behavioral principles still apply, consumers are less affected by traditional stimuli such as advertising and more heavily ‘moved’ by the opinion of others. Social media is now a first stop in the purchasing decision process. One-way impressions have been replaced by conversation, customer interaction, real-time experiences.
What are the biggest consumer behavioral changes you’re seeing due to COVID-19?
GM: Fear. I have talked to many individuals who are anxious about shopping. Shopping for many is a recreational activity that accomplishes something. That something is to purchase goods or services to meet needs or wants. The nervousness of physical shopping may drive a new retail reality. We have no idea what that will look like or how sweeping these changes will be, but we will never engage in a brick and mortar shopping experience the same way…. ever.
How can brick and mortar retailers adapt to these changes?
GM: The primary responsibility (and necessity) of B&M’s will be to make shopping a better overall experience than other options (online). From what I can tell, this is not an easy solution. B&M’s will have to compel the consumer to take the risk and go to a store because the advantage of physical shopping is far better than ordering online.
How will this be accomplished? The $1B answer awaits.
What behavior trends should retailers be focused on?
GM: Redefining shopping as a social experience that accomplishes the task of acquiring the product/service plus several other benefits that cannot be replicated online. As simple yet as daunting a task as that.
What will the consumer shopper of the future look like?
GM: How it evolves will require anticipating consumer shifts. Retailers must make the visit an extremely personal experience. They need to offer something that is highly valued by their target audience that is hard to capture on-line or in any competing manner. One way is to offer a more social and satisfying experience while trying to maintain margins. This is complicated by Covid-19. One thing is for certain, retailers have to build an experience that ensures the customer leaves the store ‘richer’.