The Coronavirus brought forth unexpected consequences like an impending economic crisis and changes in consumer behavior. The actions taken to contain the virus have inevitably affected the jobs and lives of millions of people. For marketers, the Coronavirus outbreak affected how people will consume moving forward and possibly permanently.
Consumers have been encouraged to only step outside of their homes for essential errands, like grocery shopping, per county and state-issued orders. Anxious consumers ravaged all grocery stores in sight, most notably for toilet paper. We’ve all seen the memes and related on a deeper level.
Outside of panic buying, consumers were forced to adapt their shopping practices to their new reality. This goes beyond saving money because of layoffs. As a result of the Coronavirus, consumers are purchasing virtually every product online. E-commerce has exploded, and it will most likely remain high after the pandemic passes.
Grocery retail advisory firm Brick Meets Click conducted research and discovered that 43% of respondents still plan to grocery shop online after the crisis. This shift in grocery shopping us unprecedented because this is the first time many consumers have downloaded the Instacart, Amazon Prime Now and Shipt apps and visited their websites.
Many consumers were forced into online grocery shopping because daycares are closed and shopping with kids in this circumstance can be too risky and challenging. Some people are apart of the at-risk population for contracting COVID-19 or live with others that fall within this category. A colleague of mine, Clara Lyzniak, tried Instacart for the first time to avoid unnecessary exposure at the grocery for herself and her husband. This was her Instacart experience:
Well, it is more expensive and as the Rolling Stones say in the song, You Don’t Always Get What You Want, you participate online with the shopper and it can be at your door within a couple of hours. So the extra cost is worth it, but, when things get back to normal, I’ll probably go back to in-person big purchases but go online for smaller purchases. During this pandemic, it is well worth it. It introduced to online grocery shopping.
Grocery stores are still taking precautions for consumers that didn’t opt for grocery delivery and for those grocery delivery shoppers. Clara informed me that some Publix locations in her area are allowing 10 shoppers to enter the store at a time. In addition to this effort, most grocery stores have been reported to add markers within grocery store lines to encourage the recommended 6 feet of social distancing. A close friend of mine, Chavely Bahamonde, told me about her Publix experience earlier today:
The store was wild. People are going crazy. There is a 2 per household limit for literally every item. I guess they need to restock because the demand is so high. And you see groups of people getting trained because they’ve been hiring people left and right.
In addition to changes in grocery shopping, takeout and food delivery have also changed. Many companies have offered family-sized value packs for food and alcohol, likely to get rid of their inventory so it doesn’t go to waste. Some restaurants have tried to add light to the situation and offered essential items in these bundles. Local restaurants have been trying to be present for consumers and giving them whatever they usually purchase from and need overall, like alcohol and necessities consumers have been looking for.
These bundles and pushes from local restaurants to keep their businesses alive resulted in new tactics. On March 23rd, the Great American Takeout was created to inspire consumers to support local restaurants with takeout and delivery. Village Tavern, an American dining restaurant I’ve visited in the past, sent me the newsletter below:
The Great American Takeout and the overall situation have actually benefitted the top delivery apps such as GrubHub, Uber Eats, DoorDash and Postmates the most. Yahoo! Finance received data showing how these delivery services are receiving a higher volume of orders, indicating potential increases in revenue. Most of these services eliminated delivery fees, possibly leading to these increases in orders. Pizza delivery is also thriving and large chains like Dominoes have actually been hiring thousands of additional workers to meet the demand.
So what does all of this mean for consumption behaviors? It’s very likely that e-commerce will continue to thrive and even more services will move online. Our gig economy will embrace this digitization and it’ll be commonplace to fulfill most of our needs online. Food is only the beginning. The Coronavirus epidemic is a critical lesson for all marketers – consumers want convenience and we must deliver.
Learn more about the first step marketers should take in a crisis – adjusting their brand storytelling and messaging.