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The Consumer has always been an evolving entity, and in desperate times such as today – with a global pandemic & a world-wide lockdown; it is no different. Throughout the past few months, our lives have been overrun by mortal peril, we have reconsidered every touch and every interaction; Needless to say, this has transcended into how we interact with the services and products that we avail daily.

Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on the Marketplace
Consumer purchases are driven by two factors today, essentiality & accessibility. This is reflective of the market data of all services. Observe the following chart by Common Thread Collective which indicates how essential services such as medicine, food, and sustenance are surging while those related to indulgence and luxury seem to plummet.

Essential Services such as Health and Safety Products have seen a massive surge in sales, with medical masks having a 300%+ increase according to Nielsen. Food and Beverage sales including that of groceries are also up according to most surveys conducted.

On the other hand, seemingly Unessential Services sales plummeted. Luxury Goods is projected to incur a loss of $10 Billion according to Vogue Business. Fashion and Apparel sales are down by 20% according to ShipBob merchant data, and industries of Entertainment, Restaurants, and Travel have all been facing the same consequences. To understand this phenomenon, we must first understand the Quarantined Consumer.

Understanding Panic Buying:
The early stages of the pandemic saw panic buying, a demand that brick & mortar retailers struggled to meet. This panic buying was driven by three key reasons attributed to the uncertainty of the times we live in, they are as follows:
  1. 1. To assert control over their lives by alleviating fear & anxiety
  2. 2. To respond to a possible future scarcity
  3. 3. As a part of the bandwagon of other people panic buying.

Understanding the Quarantined Consumer
To the quarantined consumer, all decisions are either preemptive (preventive health, wellness, stockpiling to minimize physical interaction) or reactive (purchasing protective gear, pharmaceutical purchases). This means that most decisions under the current context are made in consideration to COVID 19 and its subsequent environment.

According to a survey conducted by Engine Insights, Online Shopping has increased 74% since March 13 due to the pandemic. Consumers are undergoing massive behavioral changes to avoid crowds at physical outlets & the threat of infection. While many are opting in to BOPIS (Buy Online Pick Up in Store), others are downloading applications such as Shipt (124%) and Instacart (218%) to hire personal shoppers capable of delivering to the doorstep.

The Takeaway:
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the online retail sector was booming with a predicted $6.5 Trillion sales estimate by 2023. This virus has bolstered these circumstances, with the significance of E-Commerce coming to an all-time high.

Retailers must recognize that this is the new normal, and it will take a long time for consumers to readjust their behavior; assuming they do at all. The key to survival is improving e-commerce offerings & integrate services on a digital platform. Rather than stopping marketing activities such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), Pay Per Click (PPC), and Paid Social – Retailers should invest in them more, preventing losses & preparing them for the future.

There are still opportunities, they just require a different approach – one that is digital.