How Has COVID-19 Changed Consumer Behavior?
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As your customers’ behavior evolves through the pandemic, so too should your business.

In the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a common refrain: When will we return to normal? But after months of drastic changes to behaviors, spending, and expectations, many people began to accept the fact that our sense of “normal” can evolve.

As families have adjusted to a shifting reality, so have businesses. And with experts expecting that life won’t return to a semblance of “normality” until late 2021 or early 2022, it’s clear there’s a long road ahead — one paved with more of the unknowns that have become commonplace over the last year.

As a business leader, how can you adjust your strategy to meet consumers where they are today, while staying nimble enough to pivot when the situation inevitably changes again? Having an understanding of your customers’ values, expectations, and needs can empower you to make decisions with confidence.

Here are three key factors that will continue to drive consumer behavior in 2021:

Safety Remains Top-of-Mind

From contactless delivery to the installation of hand sanitizing stations, business leaders have innovated throughout the pandemic to make transactions as safe as possible for their customers. Before the pandemic, most Americans probably would have balked at the idea of a mandatory temperature check upon walking into a store or restaurant. But today nearly 7 in 10 people are comfortable having their temperature taken in order to enter a store, Ernst & Young reports, and shoppers increasingly expect businesses to maintain higher health and sanitation protocols. Likewise, research conducted by McKinsey finds that 73% of customers had tried new shopping behaviors since the pandemic began, and up to 83% of them intend to continue using them in the future.

Key takeaway for businesses: The desire for safe ways to interact with retail has led to a dramatic shift in how customers approach their shopping. As you communicate with customers both in-store and through your marketing channels, it’s important to demonstrate that you take health concerns seriously and will continue to do so in the months and years to come.

Value Is Paramount

Since the earliest days of the pandemic, Americans have approached many aspects of their finances with renewed scrutiny. Even those not directly affected by job loss or income reduction found themselves scrimping on essentials or doubling down on efforts to build an emergency fund.

Half of consumers say financial security is a top priority, according to Accenture research, and this focus has led them to seek budget-friendly solutions. Businesses that capitalize on this commitment will find a willing and engaged customer base.

Key takeaway for businesses: Given the lingering uncertainty among Americans about their economic futures, companies that can clearly express their value to their customers will likely rise to the top.

A Sense of Purpose Empowers Decisions

The ups and downs of the pandemic have given Americans ample cause for worry. They’ve also spurred many to reevaluate aspects of their lives they seldom gave a thought in previous years. For example, 56% of shoppers are buying more locally sourced products or frequenting neighborhood stores, according to Accenture, a trend the vast majority plan to continue.

And the desire for purpose has impacted medium and large businesses, as well. As they look to the future, these firms will be expected to rebuild in a more sustainable way as they respond to social and environmental issues given a higher profile this year.

Key takeaway for businesses: When you can demonstrate that you are engaged in the local community and contributing to a cause that extends beyond your business, you may be able to build additional trust and respect with your customers.

Safety, value, and purpose: These three trends are driving customer behavior today. By understanding them, you can pivot your business strategy to connect with your audience in a way that resonates in an uncertain time. But even as you do so, remember that your consumers’ needs will continue to evolve — be sure to listen to what they’re telling you and embrace the era of constant evolution.

For more on operations, risk management, innovation, and financial management, visit regions.com/commercialinsights.

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This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and irs.gov for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.