What can we expect from consumers when things go “back to normal” post-pandemic?
With experts now predicting that the majority of Americans could get access to the vaccine in the coming months, there’s a chance that we may be able to get back to some semblance of normalcy come summertime. But will a return to “normal” life post-pandemic mean a return to “normal” shopping habits too?
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that a year of being told to stay at home and keep your distance has shifted the way people shop. Once of the biggest impacts of the pandemic on the retail industry has been the uptick in ecommerce shopping. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, American consumers spent $211.5 billion online during Q2 of 2020—driving ecommerce to account for 16.1% of all U.S. sales, a more than 10% increase over the previous quarter. But with the lessening of restrictions in the summer, many consumers returned to some in-store shopping—but even there, their habits had changed. These days, people are planning their trips to the store in advance, reserving in-person shopping for only certain types of items and being more thoughtful about which stores they patronize. What consumers are buying has changed too. The bedding industry has seen a major boom this year, as people focused more on their health and invested more on upgrading their home. In fact, according to a new survey from RetailMeNot, 74% of the consumers surveyed reported that the pandemic has “fundamentally changed how they shop”.
How Will They Shop?
But even as consumers adjusted their shopping habits, RetailMeNot found that only 42% believe those new habits are here to stay. A different survey from Acosta found that 59% of respondents said they would continue with some of their new habits—including spending less time in stores, spending more money per shopping trip and shopping online more—but only 16% plan to continue with most or all of them.
So while there has been a lot of talk about the ecommerce boom this past year, there’s no guarantee that this all-online approach is going to stick around. A new survey from Adyen also found a pent-up demand for brick-and-mortar shopping; 58% of respondents said they are excited to shop in stores for pleasure again.
What’s more likely is that people will adopt their own hybrid approach to shopping, picking and choosing which product categories make more sense to buy online versus in-store. And this may not be the same across demographics and price points The luxury mattress consumer will likely continue to want to rest-test in-store before buying, while the convenience of ecommerce will be enough for some entry-level customers.
What Will People Spend Money On?
It’s a big question facing the sleep industry right now: will the demand for bedding stay at these record levels, even when people can go out and do things again? And unfortunately, it remains uncertain.
According to RetailMe Not, the top picks for what shoppers will be spending their money on post-pandemic were travel to visit family and friends, taking a proper vacation and dining out in restaurants. But even as more activities become available to people, the comfort of home isn’t likely to wane—as people adjust to doing more, they may crave that safety and security even more.
And when it comes to actually spending money on products, we may see a newfound loyalty. According to the Adyen survey, many consumers are planning to stick with the retailers that got them through hard times. Of the consumers surveyed, 69% said they intend to continue supporting retailers they relied on during the pandemic—and 51% said they intend to go out of their way to shop with responsible businesses that demonstrated good social conscience over this past year.
What About Their Finances?
From a personal finance standpoint, the past year has been sort of all over the place. Even as millions of people lost their jobs, many wealthy people actually got wealthier—and, given the volatile nature of the economy, people across that entire spectrum were a little more cautious with their expenses. According to this article from the Worcester Business Journal, Americans saved more money in 2020 than they ever have before. Thanks to a general anxiety about the state of the economy, many consumers decided to pour stimulus money and savings directly into their bank accounts. According to a December report from McKinsey & Co, 40% of consumers surveyed said they were more mindful of how they spent their money these days.
Now, with a light at the end of the tunnel in sight, experts in the banking industry are debating whether this new frugality will continue—or if there, instead, might be a huge post-pandemic shopping spree on the horizon.
How To Plan For The Future?
While there are plenty of questions that still remain, it’s safe to assume that we won’t be going back to the ways things used to be. Nor will things stay the same as they have been these past 11 months. A full year of shopping online has inevitably changed the way people shop in-store—and the eventual opportunity to simply pop in and out of stores again will change the way people buy online.
At this stage, it’s important for both manufacturers and retailers to be planning for that new reality. How can we maintain consumers’ interest in sleep, health and wellness? What can we do to capitalize on that excitement of returning to shop in-store? What resources and tools do consumers expect these days?
Over the past year, people have learned more about the importance of taking care of their health than ever before—they have experienced the benefits of upgrading their sleep system. And those are lessons are not likely to forget anytime soon. Now it’s up to the industry to figure out how to keep up that momentum moving forward.