Consumers form the most important part of any business since they determine the market. Imagine a company coming up with a really good product, but all the hard work the workers and researchers put into the company will go down the drain if there is no demand from the consumer. Consumers determine the status of the company’s market value. Focusing on keeping the customer or consumer satisfied is one of the main goals of business operations and it fuels the product ideas and designs. Branded products, top-quality services and great offers are some of the attractive measures company owners used in order to attract consumers to their company and increase the size of their consumer market, becoming a benchmark in the stock market for competitors. But with the current pandemic playing a major factor in altering the needs and priorities of the consumers, their changing preferences are affecting businesses and has resulted in a drastic economic change. Let’s delve into the changing and changed mindsets of the consumers during COVID-19 times.
Many companies and research organisations have dedicated their time to understand consumers and their purchasing behavior from the time the lockdowns have been imposed. Consumers showed a decrease in their preference to brands and increased their preference to essential commodities. The general items or staple items were bought in generous amounts leaving a reduction in stock for other consumers, increasing the demand for such commodities. When malls and high-end stores were shut down to reduce gatherings, local grocery stores that are located in every community or colony were the light at the end of the tunnel. They were supporting the general public in times of the lockdown, taking up orders and designing ways for home deliveries to nearby areas.
Going digital is a trend that companies have been trying to bring into the general norm for a long time in order to ease the processes. But now with the sudden occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic, digitalization has become a necessity. Consumers are refusing or trying to reduce physical contact and at a stage where they are ready to adapt any measures that can help them do so. Digital payments and digital communications are being preferred to cash transactions.
Retail shops are most affected. Malls will most likely see a reduced consumer count and it will be difficult to get back to the previous state of normalcy. Due to the importance of social distancing, people are negligent to visit malls, which before this pandemic used to be a place of hangout for families and friends. Now the constant uncertainty and doubt of whether proper hygiene standards are being maintained in the shops and by the sales people will be a major concern for the average consumer. Also, when their necessary needs are being through online delivery systems within the comfortable confines of their homes, why would consumers want to risk going out to malls. This has a bad impact on the branded clothing, apparel and other stores. The ambience is now given the last preference in a store or public place as safety and hygiene are at the topmost priority of consumers.
With the bleak and unpredictable future ahead of us, companies have decided to cut-back on losses in order to keep their businesses running and one of the ways they did so was by letting go of many employees. This led to a rapid rise in the state of unemployment in many countries. Apart from this, loss in business has caused many companies to shut down which also contributed to unemployment. Therefore, many consumers who have been affected by unemployment themselves are keen on saving up for the future than waste money on unnecessary and impulsive buying. They are focussed on survival and are trying to avoid pleasures and luxuries as much as possible. Consumers have begun to change their way of thought and think before buying a product, by judging the intensity of its need. This has also made consumers really cost sensitive.
Many showrooms and retailers are facing issues surviving this pandemic because of the cost of maintaining a proper inventory and keeping the supply chain working. Costs have to be entailed in order to move ahead with the product and it is becoming difficult to do so since consumers are not willing to visit the stores to purchase them. Even food chains have to adapt to the mode of online delivery and supply since the number of consumers will decrease. Cloud kitchens and food servicing apps are the hot trends for those consumers who miss the dishes from their favourite restaurants.
But, in spite of all this lockdown and distancing we have been able to see that the consumer demand for alcohol has risen well with people being deprived of it for months in India, at least at affordable ranges. In India, the re-opening of alcohol stores saw a large gathering of people who crammed near the shops waiting in line for hours, to get their bottle of alcohol. Despite overpricing, consumers were ready to pay the amount displaying the need for the product in the consumer’s life.
Consumer needs and demands have always been the guide line for a market to grow and for companies to follow. Proper research teams are highly essential to analyse and collect data regarding the views and perspectives of the consumers which will give them a helping hand to retrieve their fallen economy. Online surveys, forms, feedbacks, etc. will act as tools for conducting such research. Businesses are looking forward to the future and are striving to make amends and take measures to prepare for it and this consumer analysis will be useful. The post-pandemic world is something we are all waiting for and it will not be the same as before. Consumer demands have changed and now, so should the priorities of the companies. Partial relaxations don’t help much but we will have to make do with these until a permanent solution can be found to bring the COVID-19 under considerate control.