The long-term effects of COVID-19 may shift consumer behavior in ways both meaningful and lasting, especially as small business owners increasingly grapple with what the future of commerce will look like in the new normal. Accordingly, regardless of how fast the economy stands poised to recover, the everyday operating reality is expected to look radically different for scores of business leaders in every industry. Below you’ll find a rundown of several ways in which shoppers’ habits are rapidly evolving already — and how these changes stand poised to impact your industry and organization in the months to come.
Concerts, Sports and Live Events
Audiences are expected to continue to shy away from large gatherings (e.g. fairs, festivals, and concerts) for the remainder of 2020. According to a 2020 survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers by Performance Research, nearly 44% anticipate that they’ll attend fewer live events in coming months, while 47% note that they’ll continue to do so for a long time. With major sports leagues, entertainment events and community gatherings currently on hold, government officials and health experts predict that it will be 2021 before consumer confidence returns, and live programming returns to form.
Travel, Hotels and Hospitality
Good news for companies operating in the travel and hospitality space: After being locked down at home for weeks on end, many consumers in states that have continued their reopening are eager to get out and explore. A nationwide survey of 2,000 travelers in 2020 by luxury travel operator the Overseas Leisure Group suggests that there’s rising demand for hotels and resorts among customers, and that 72% of Americans (tired of being cooped up at home) are currently making plans for their next vacation. Reason to perk up also exists for airlines and the vendors who support them as well. Reportedly, per the Overseas Leisure Group survey, nearly eight in ten passengers would be willing travel by air for their next vacation, and 82% believe that the travel market is simply on pause at the current moment — not being permanently disrupted. With many airlines and hotels offering flexible changes and cancellations, booking interest among shoppers is expected to remain high.
Restaurants and Grocery Stores
According to a 2020 survey of several hundred U.S. households by Technomic, nearly one-third of adults (32%) anticipate that they’ll go out to eat at restaurants less often in the future. Likewise, venues — which are expected to serve fewer diners and introduce more spacing between tables — should anticipate that patrons will plan on eating at home more frequently. Also note: While breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, surrounding traffic is slowing considerably for fast food chains—dinner is the meal that families are most expected to order out for instead. On the flip side, grocery stores (more and more of whom are expanding their business through curbside and at-home delivery) are additionally expected to undergo a radical transformation as well. With a 2020 report by Fabric which surveyed 1,000 consumers from across the country noting that record numbers of shoppers turning to online ordering, these outlets won’t be going anywhere anytime soon — but from a business standpoint, they will increasingly be going digital.
From the smallest local businesses to the largest global enterprises, the onset of the coronavirus and other disruptive events will only continue to change the fundamental way in which countless individuals and organizations do business going forward.
Health Care and Wellness
Hate going to the doctor’s office? You’re in luck: A 2020 survey of 500 U.S. physicians by AbelsonTaylor reveals that telemedicine has been on the upswing by 106% and video conferencing with health care professionals has increased by 159%. Companies using technology to provide care and wellness support are further expected to enjoy a massive upswing in interest as demand for remote and virtual solutions grows. Of course, with roughly nine in ten medical pros still preferring voice calls as a means of staying in contact over email, text message, or online exchanges (according to the AbelsonTaylor survey), don’t forget that it still pays to keep their phone number on speed dial.
Retail and Online Shopping
Online shopping has experienced a double-digit surge in interest since March, according to 2020 reports by The New York Times. Studies by analysts at Wall Street investment research firm UBS reveal that over 100,000 U.S. retailers may permanently close their doors by 2025 as a result. As brick-and-mortar stores continue to shutter, skyrocketing growth in online and mobile commerce looks poised to put a pinch on your favorite local vendors. Malls may also be an endangered species as tenants like department stores increasingly cede foot traffic to growth in the e-commerce space as well. But despite online shopping’s growing prominence and consumers’ growing move away from brick-and-mortar retail stores, more malls exist per every million households in the US than they did in 1980. Bearing this in mind, those retailers likeliest to rebound from COVID-19 are those that put a focus on offering essential household goods or provide customers with unique experiences that they can’t get anywhere else.
Conferences, Meetings and Trade Shows
According to a 2020 survey of 1,776 members of convention management association PCMA, seven in ten event professionals have migrated face-to-face events either fully or partially to virtual platforms, and say that online gatherings will be a go-to resource long after the effects of the coronavirus epidemic subside. However, most foresee a bright future for hybrid on-site/online events, with 62% predicting that in-person meetings will exist side-by-side with virtual programming going forward. As a similarly-timed poll of 790 event planners by Northstar Meetings Group seconds, small events (50 people are less) are expected to increase in frequency and prominence, while customers’ reticence to attend large gatherings will cause significant drops in the number of grand-scale conferences and tradeshows to be held. On the bright side, Fall 2020 is anticipated to be the likeliest season in which the industry ramps back up, with 4 in 10 meeting planners and suppliers predicting a return to form during this time.
Fashion and Accessories
Most consumers are saving and stockpiling against possible financial downturns, according to a 2020 survey of 4,859 shoppers in the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe by EY, with 72% of them spending less on clothing as a result. With shoppers continuing to tighten up on discretionary purchases, it’s caused sales in categories such as footwear, workwear, formalwear and accessories to plummet in recent months. But there’s still room for massive sales growth online, say industry pros, who expect emphasis to increasingly shift to digital and social media upstart brands. Companies that will succeed in the fashion space in coming months aren’t those anticipated to offer generic fare from blue jeans to button-downs. Rather, they’re the ones expected to find novel ways to connect with audiences online, from dressing 3D video game avatars in the latest fashions to producing limited-run gear based on the latest trending topics.
How long-lasting will many of these changes to customer behavior be? Only time will tell. But several are expected to last through the end of the year at minimum, while still more promise to impact the shape of the commercial world for decades to come. From the smallest local businesses to the largest global enterprises, the onset of the coronavirus and other disruptive events will only continue to change the fundamental way in which countless individuals and organizations do business going forward. The more actively you strive to adapt your business to address these shifts today, however? The more effective at learning to stay one step ahead of the curve you can be.
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