Consumers Reset Shopping Habits

Here are seven predictions about how the pandemic could permanently alter the way we shop. 

April 29, 2020

BOSTON—What will retail look like after social distancing and stay-at-home edicts are removed? “There’s an old phrase, it takes 30 days to make a habit,” said Erik Rosenstrauch, founder of Fuel Partnerships. “Now we’ve all had 30 days stuck at home to begin developing new habits.”

Here are seven predictions of how the coronavirus pandemic could change the retail landscape, the Boston Globe reports:

1. Price sensitivity will rise. “We went into this with a sense of price ignorance; we didn’t care about prices at all,” said David Marcotte, senior vice president at Kantar Consulting. “And now we’re coming out the other side.”

2. Takeout will continue to be popular. “So many restaurants will shutter, but the talent of their chefs and founders will continue,” said Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst with Forrester Research. “What you’ll see is models … where people are operating restaurants out of their home or professional kitchens, and they make the menu available for pickup or delivery.”

3. Comfort grocery shopping will stick around. Shoppers have moved to the center of the store for trusted brands and longer shelf life products. Michael Nestrud, a Boston R&D consultant for the food industry, said, “Part of me wonders if there’s a cultural trust about it being fundamentally safe, even if it might not be the healthiest for us.”

4. Customers still will like store pickups. After the pandemic ends, grocery stores will likely push in-store pickup over delivery orders. Aaron Cheris, head of Bain & Co.’s retail practice, said curbside pickup comprises 40% to 50% of e-commerce orders at some retailers. “It’s super-convenient and feels super-fast,” he said.

5. E-commerce and mobile payments will continue to be popular. These experts predict that online shopping will soar, but others say shoppers will eagerly flock to bricks-and-mortar stores.

6. Local will reign. “As much as the media talks about online purchasing and how Amazon is taking over the world, the American shopper has recalibrated over the past few weeks and realized their local store is the place where they go to get the products they need,” Rosenstrauch said.

7. Retailers will care more about employees. “Policies are going to necessarily change around employees’ welfare, because it’s been directly linked to the bottom line,” Nestrud said. “The cost of shutting down a factory and having to scrub it clean for three days is not insignificant, versus paying for a few days of sick time for employees.”