Calls have been streaming in from industry executives seeking answers to questions that can’t be answered yet amid so much uncertainty.
What’s past is often prologue in predicting how behavior could be changed by a coronavirus crisis with no clear end in sight.
Some might apply the aftermath of 9/11 and the Great Recession to calculations on how consumers will live, work, play and shop after the pandemic eases and the world opens up again. Every societal catalyst, however, presents distinct markers when it comes to re-shaping consumer behavior. And we simply don’t know which recent shifts in mindset and practice will develop into enduring routine.
We can start to look elsewhere for anecdotal guidance on what could be next here for many retailers. As China, for example, enters the second phase of COVID-19 and begins to unlock its doors, consumers there unsurprisingly are skittish about in-store shopping. Such aversion foreshadows the urgency for U.S. stores to implement more contactless options for consumers seeking to keep their social distance while shopping.
The concept of consumer as king, already a prevailing mantra in the e-commerce age, will assume even more consequence as consumers reveal their post-COVID shopping patterns.
Retailers and vendors who can’t present deeply data-driven and responsively personalized omnichannel experiences— as much as that further pressures inventory planning and supply chains— might become more endangered.
If there is a silver lining to these darkest of clouds, it is the reemphasis on home and family that has bloomed during stay-at-home restrictions and promises to carry over into a longer-term mainstream.
The crisis has amplified a zeal for cooking, cleaning and wellness that should endure. And expect a lasting work-from-home boom as more businesses refine remote productivity while reducing costs of office space.
This all lands on the sweet spot of the home and housewares business.
Kitchen electrics. Cookware and tools. Storage solutions. Home office desks and accessories. Home soda makers. Water filters. Air purifiers. Comfort appliances. Grooming tools. These are among many more home products that surged at the beginning of the outbreak and should see sustained demand when U.S. retail reopens on a widescale basis.
There is some comforting warmth amid the chilling negativity in the resurgence of breakfast in American households as families rediscover the virtues of starting each day together at the kitchen table.
The change in consumer behavior is a fluid situation. Expect mindsets and practices to evolve from a focus on the home as a fortress, where self-protection is a prime motivator, to one of the home as an oasis, where enjoying life is the main objective.
This is the time to watch and listen to consumers very closely. They will answer today’s unanswerable questions.