The 5 Shifts in Consumer Behavior during COVID-19 That Won’t Change

COVID-19 has dragged consumers and businesses alike through a digital transformation.  However, are these new behaviors here to stay, or will some of them revert to the ‘old’ normal?  In this episode, Chris Casale and Ryan Smith break down the 5 major shifts in consumer behavior that are here to stay and how your business can react and benefit.

As consumers around the globe adjust to the next normal, there is a significant variance in consumer sentiment and behaviors across countries, according to a study released by McKinsey and briefed by HubSpot.

Podcast Highlights

Chris Casale: [00:03:08] Basically, the study stated that consumers across the globe have responded to the crisis and its disruption to their normal consumer behaviors by trying different shopping behaviors and expressing a high intent to incorporate these behaviors moving forward. The change has been less pronounced in countries such as Germany and Japan, but it’s still present. And I think one of the biggest findings in the study was that over 60% of global consumers have changed their shopping behavior, many of them for convenience and value. 

And in the US, that percentage was 75% of consumers have changed brands at least once during the pandemic. And that’s pretty significant, right, because a lot of us develop some sort of brand loyalty or brand affinity and we purchase from the brands that we know and that we trust and that we prefer to do business with. But according to the study, 75% of consumers have changed brands at least once. That’s huge, Ryan. 

Ryan Smith: [00:04:08] Not only that, you know, when we look from a global standpoint, 60 percent is high and then the US basically exceeded that. And this study from McKinsey was actually also summed up through HubSpot as well. The big thing was brand loyalty being tested. And I think we’ve seen brand loyalty fade over the years, but nothing like we saw, you know, through 2020 and as you know, I think Chris and I will break down and quickly kind of sum up these aren’t going to change. When we talk about a new normal, there’s a business component that is also a new normal and consumer behavior is part of that and brand loyalty is gone. So looking at it being tested, it’s important to look at three reasons consumers actually have changed their habits and the three main reasons they’re looking for. They’re looking for value, availability and convenience. 

Top 3 reasons consumers changed their habits or brands

  • Value
  • Availability
  • Convenience

1. Brand loyalty is being tested

Chris Casale: [00:06:16] Brand loyalty will continue to be tested. I want to go back to something Jay Baer said on this podcast several episodes ago when we were talking about rewiring the customer experience. And that’s that brands are made, brands are built during lean times, during challenging times. They’re not built during, you know, the successful times. 

And the main reason for that is what is it a brand can offer you when everything’s good, when you’ve got everything that you need? Right. There’s very little that they can do to differentiate themselves. 

However, in the middle of a crisis, in the middle of, you know, severe health crisis, unemployment crisis, economic crisis, you know, the brands that put their consumers first and foremost that provide that value, that provide that level of availability and that convenience. Those are the ones that are rising to the top and those are the ones that are going to gain the most brand loyalty throughout all of this. 

2. Consumers aren’t rushing to grab their wallets

Ryan Smith: [00:08:48] So even as cities and businesses have slowly reopened, the shoppers are still staying cautious about how they’re spending their money. So in the US alone, 40% of consumers say they’ll continue to be mindful of where they’re going to spend that money, while 31% plan to buy less expensive versions of items to save money. 

So whenever they make those purchases, 21% of consumers aim to do more brand and product research than they had for pre-pandemic purchases. 21% plan to do more brand and product research. If you have been following this podcast that in the world that we’ve been talking about over the last several episodes is about content marketing. It’s about creating content. 

When people are doing their research, they have a problem. Your content is to provide a solution. Part of that is in the form of research that the consumer is doing. This works for B2B, this works for B2C as well. And it’s very important to see that we’re seeing an increase of people doing even more research. And I think they did a lot of research before. 

If you are in the B2C world and you have a brick and mortar location, by the time that consumer gives you their contact information, they are well into the research process. By the time you’re identifying them, they’ve already researched your products, they’ve researched your company, they’ve researched your competitors. So the fact that we’ve actually seen a 21% increase of people wanting to do more research, I think it goes to show you you have to continue to create, valuable content. 

“So the fact that we’ve actually seen a 21% increase of people wanting to do more research, I think it goes to show you, you have to continue to create, valuable content.”


Don’t create content for the sake of content, create valuable content. You have to understand your customer’s needs what they’re looking for and solve their problem in the form of a blog, of a video. Distribute that through email, through social media. It’s extremely important, again, that we adjust with these times. And again, some of the stuff that we’re seeing wasn’t necessarily new. It’s just been fast forwarded and we’re seeing more of it during this pandemic. 

Chris Casale: [00:11:30] And content marketing, as Ryan just talked about, is absolutely the best way to do that. If you can provide valuable information that solves their problem when they choose to open their wallet, they’re going to spend it on the brands that were most helpful to them. And using content marketing, leveraging content marketing is one of the ways to deliver that value. 

3. Shoppers need eCommerce

Chris Casale: [00:11:51] The next shift in consumer behavior that we’re seeing that is not going to change is shoppers need e-commerce, 70% of consumers don’t want to resume activities or work outside of their homes just yet. And that is despite the push to reopen the economy. 

There was news that broke this week about some of the first vaccines being distributed. But it’s going to take months for those vaccines to trickle out into the world for us to develop some level of herd immunity. I think the latest I heard was the second quarter of 2021. But even with that, individuals aren’t rushing to get back to the previous form of normal. So if they won’t leave home to work, to travel, or to dine out. The McKinsey study notes that many of them aren’t going to leave home to shop either. 

Chris Casale: [00:13:26] The other component of shoppers needing e-commerce that I think is worth talking about is the businesses that understand consumers need e-commerce and put them at the front and center and showed them that their business was important to them, ended up having a lot more success than those that have made alternative decisions. And let me give you an example of that. 

The meal delivery app, DoorDash, right. DoorDash is known for you get on their website, you pick from local restaurants, you place an order and you pay a service fee to have somebody deliver that food to your place of residence. Well, they could have capitalized on the fact that more people were having food delivered and raise their prices. They went the other direction. 

They reduced the commissions on local restaurant orders so that those business owners could sell food virtually while earning a fee-free revenue from each order. How did the market respond? I think I read recently that DoorDash grew north of 300%. They just had a very, very successful IPO. Right. So clearly a strategy like this paid off for them big time. 

4. Health plays a role in purchasing decisions

Ryan Smith: [00:18:22] Health plays a role in purchasing decisions. When we say health, we’re talking about how has your process changed (because of COVID-19)? Clearly, you’re seeing you can’t go inside of businesses, if you can and it (depends) where you are in the world, you can get outside and/or you can go into an establishment. They’re wearing masks. You know, there are certain lines of being, you know, six feet apart or a couple of meters depending on where you’re at in the world. So we have those things to follow. 

But as a business they’re additional steps that you can take in communicating that and back on Episode 21, so it’s a little bit ago but still very relevant, we had Jay Baer on and his episode was How to Rewire Your Customer Experience. Jay Baer had a great, I thought story of his own experience about just trying to go get a haircut in how things have changed. 

5. Shoppers have become homebodies

Chris Casale: [00:23:44] Individuals are not quite ready to leave their homes yet. And, you know, even prior to the pandemic, if you have been in a retail establishment, you know, J.C. Penney just came out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings. Best Buy was expected to file and they had a better than expected Black Friday. So we’ll see what’s going to happen with Best Buy now. Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works. There’s several others out there now, I think Bed, Bath and Beyond is another one.

These retailers are in serious trouble and it’s not really a surprise because if you’ve been to a mall recently, you know that the whole retail experience is kind of terrible. And, you know, brands are having to shift into the digital world and things that traditionally we were harder to buy online, things like clothes, because, you know, you want to be able to try it on and food even recently. 

I mean, you know, I’ve done a couple of orders from both Publix here in Florida and Whole Foods recently that they delivered to the house. And you know, I wouldn’t have traditionally thought of buying groceries online, but I found the process to be very easy, the substitution selection to be very easy to work with and in the grand scheme of things, not all that expensive. So it was a great way to have groceries delivered without having to leave the house. 

This is something that we’ve seen consumers do more of, is taking advantage of e-commerce and not leaving the house when making those purchasing decisions. But because we’re going through this digital transformation now, because we see what’s possible, that behavior is not expected to change. More individuals will be placing orders for delivery because anything that they decide not to keep the return policies has been made very, very easy. 


Ryan Smith: [00:27:27] So we’ve gone over five tips to come across and, you know, moving forward, know a couple of recommendations and that came from HubSpot that they recommend. 

Consumers crave value and availability 

It’s always been that way. But again, this digital transformation that the majority of people were forced into has also made us become more aware and we want products with more value and availability. And that’s big, especially when we learned how certain products were not available, especially in the springtime when it became a pandemic. 

I mean, you couldn’t even get toilet paper. Paper products were just were gone. Availability is big. And what is the value? What are you getting? And when it comes to products adding a line item, the perception could be you’re not adding value to me. You’re making things more expensive. 

And I could probably shop, do some research and maybe I’ll find another product that’s similar to yours where I’m getting a higher perceived value than what you’re offering. And just as we talked about as well, digital transformation, it’s already happened and it will continue to happen. So if you have not transformed, if you’re a brick and mortar and you have added that component of ordering online or you haven’t had that component of delivery, that is key. So, again, it’s another issue that you have to address. 

And then lastly, human and empathetic brands will always reap the benefits. Brands with leaders who genuinely care about people will get better reviews, word of mouth and positive awareness than brands that just throw caution to the wind. These, again, are things that have always been around, but it’s even more critical that you address them. And when you’re talking about your messaging to your customer base or prospective clients, having an empathetic voice in your messaging is vital. 

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