Over the last decade or so, the internet has been a force to contend with. From shopping to work, entertainment to advertising, it has changed how humans interact with products, services, and other humans. With the pandemic making the “real world” – or physical spaces – nearly defunct in the last six odd months, the powers that the internet has wielded in keeping things “normal” in these unprecedented times has been no less of a phenomenon. According to the World Trade Organization, digital access has increased across all realms. It reports, “The COVID‑19 pandemic has led consumers to ramp up online shopping, social media use, internet telephony and teleconferencing, and streaming of videos and films. Demand has also increased for internet and mobile data services. The network capacity and spectrum to accommodate the shift to online activities has urgently had to be adapted by both operators and governments.” Videomind has reported that COVID-19 could boost the global OTT market with a one-year revenue growth at a staggering 55% – from $104.1 billion in 2019 to $161.4 billion in 2020. And like Nellie Bowles realizes in her New York Times article, after long drawn debates on screen-time, with nowhere left to go during the pandemic, the screens have won.
The far reaching impact of the pandemic
The pandemic has shown the most laggard – or shall we say traditional – consumers, businesses, and individuals that even as they continue to exist and operate in the physical world, the opportunities in the digital realm are truly limitless. The age of omni-channel has been a long time coming, like we always believed at Lifesight. The pandemic has accelerated it, and it is well and truly here to stay.
The slow times and the rare opportunities to get out of the house is giving consumers a lot of time to discover all the time they could save by using online services a lot more, the vast potential of online education and meeting platforms, as well as digital entertainment. Consumers are questioning their decades old purchasing habits. Specifically in the Asia Pacific region where e-commerce entered late, many consumers continued to be reluctant to shop online till they had no choice but to do it because of store shutdowns and social distancing measures. Getting a taste of the sheer convenience of online shopping could mean that new customers will at long last begin to trust e-commerce. For early adopters of e-commerce, there may have been some disappointment too. Going from one-day delivery to delays due to a broken supply chain during COVID has seen many of them return to their neighbourhood mom and pop stores for basic essentials again after years of depending entirely online shopping. The flux has been real, and long-held beliefs and habits have been shaken in the last six months.
Simultaneously, the pandemic has given consumers the opportunity to re-evaluate their lifestyle choices. According to a study by Accenture, “The factors that influence brand decisions are also changing as the “buy local” trend accelerates. Digital commerce has also seen a boost as new consumers migrate online for grocery shopping – a rise that is likely to be sustained post-outbreak.” The study also predicts three lasting shopping habits that brands will need to focus on and support if they are to remain top-of-mind for consumers – conscious consumption, growing love for local, and increased attention on health. From cooking and eating healthier to investing in learning and fitness, from stronger financial planning for future crises to making more informed choices when it comes to spending money – the pandemic and its impact on the economy is set to have lasting impact on consumer behaviour. The ways in which consumers engage with brands and their expectations are also evolving rapidly.
O2O data will hold the answers to how consumers evolve
Although it is too soon to say how permanent the changing behaviours and lifestyle choices will be post-pandemic, we can certainly see two different kinds of consumers emerge after the outbreak. One group will return to its pre-COVID lifestyle, while another will consciously stick with the new lessons learned during the pandemic.
From the content consumers read and engage with online and the apps they use, to the locations they visit when the lockdowns are finally lifted, their physical and digital world footprints will hold the answers to how each consumer has evolved as a result of the pandemic. Naturally, brands will need a new O2O data strategy to truly understand the post-pandemic consumer behaviour and continue to address their product, service, and advertising needs in a hyper-contextual, hyper-personalized manner.
Are you ready for the new normal?
How consumer behaviour evolves over the next 6-12 months remains to be seen. But what we know for sure is that brands and businesses have their task cut out for them. The pandemic has been unprecedented – its impact has no comparison in the modern history of businesses. We can say with absolute certainty that any consumer insight and historical data that businesses have operated on in the past will become obsolete at worst and incomplete at best in the post-pandemic era. Global events such as COVID transform business, brand, and individual psyches. This transformation is under way as we speak. Brands that adapt to the continuous and unprecedented change with a new data and marketing playbook will be the ones that thrive.
Lifesight’s O2O data – with its visionary focus on converging online and offline consumer insight – is ready to hand hold you on this journey. What are you waiting for?