How COVID-19 Has Forever Changed Customer Behaviour

There’s no question that what we’ve all been through since the start of the pandemic that COVID-19 has changed the way we behave. New research is showing customer behaviour may have changed for good as a result of COVID-19.

Let’s explore what this research tells about changing customer behaviour and what businesses need to do about it.

I was in line at the bank the other day – yes, I sometimes still visit a physical branch – and my mind started to wander, as it does in times like that. I started imaging scenarios of what would have happened if I had walked into a bank branch pre-COVID wearing a mask. Piercing alarms. Tackled by armed security guards with little regard for social distancing. Now I can’t get into a bank – or anywhere – without a mask and it feels pretty normal.

Among the big changes that have occurred in customer behaviour is how we shop. There was a study released recently by the folks at Facebook that highlighted some important lessons to be learned by marketers and businesses that I think are worth exploring.

The study claimed that 81% of consumers have changed at least one shopping habit since the beginning of the pandemic. That’s not that surprising. We’ve all been in various stages of lockdown for nearly two years and have had to adapt. What I find interesting, is that 92% of those of us who changed a habit expect to continue with the new habit even after life returns to normal.

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That’s worth noting. If you were sort of hunkering down and just waiting to get through this, it may be time to shift that thinking. In many ways the consumer we knew before the pandemic may be gone for good.

For me, there are two really big takeaways from this research that I think businesses and marketers need to pay attention to.

The first is the rise of digital impulse shopping. 60% of online shoppers said they have purchased products because they happened upon them while browsing or consuming other content (that number is 49% in Canada). If that’s not a signal that digital advertising is becoming increasingly important to grow your business, I don’t know what is.

The other big takeaway is the confirmation of the importance of influencers and content creators to businesses. There’s a ton written about influencer marketing, but here are a couple of interesting stats from the study I want to share:

  • 51% of consumers get ideas for purchases from influencers and creators
  • 62% of millennials would buy directly from a video from a content creator

Those right there, point to the need to find the influencers important to your ideal customers and build a relationship or advertise with them. They don’t necessarily need to be massive, star-level influencers. There are thousands of “micro-influencers” and small content creators who are already engaging with your ideal clients.

You can use tools like Buzzsumo and SparkToro to find out who they are and then build some bridges. Before you do that, make sure that you’ve properly documented who your ideal client is and what makes them tick.

The key message for me is not to assume things will go back to normal when … things go back to normal. Everything I read and watch is telling me that the change in customer behaviour isn’t a blip, it’s a sped-up evolution that we’re not coming back from. It’s time to adapt and meet your customers on their terms.

How about you? What are you seeing change with your customers?

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