What will the new post-pandemic consumer be like?

COVID-19 crisis has fueled e-commerce and automated commerce, experts say

From toilet paper in the beginning of the pandemic to dye, through flour, during this crisis the consumer has changed his consumption and also his way of making purchases. But what will the consumer be like after the pandemic? “It is clear that many consumers have had to try the online channel as a result of this crisis, and have realized how comfortable and safe it is for them. This experience will increase the online quota of each client, “says Juan Carlos Gázquez-Abad, collaborating professor of the UOC’s Business and Economics Studies. In fact, this April in Spain, the online consumer channel has achieved an average of 40% more buyers than in 2019.

“The confinement has made the segment of the population that least bought online, those over 55-60 years old, now is the one that has needed the most, especially those over 70, who are the most vulnerable to the disease and those who, therefore, should be more confined and without the help of their families, “says Neus Soler, a collaborating professor in the UOC’s Business and Economics Studies. According to Kantar data, the size of the shopping baskets has been increasing every week, and all age profiles and even the categories of fresh products have gained weight, which until now were the pending subject of online shopping. «In the food sector, the online sale of fresh products did not quite catch on. The consumer preferred to buy this type of product in person, but confinement is favoring it; If the consumer finds that the product they receive at home meets their expectations, it is very likely that after the crisis they will continue to do so, “explains Soler.

But, after quarantine, will consumers return to their routine or will they be faithful to these new habits? “Most likely, this senior consumer will continue shopping online because they have lost their fear of doing so; older people have overcome the insecurity and mistrust that e-commerce generated for them and have been able to verify the comfort that it represents ”, replies Soler.

A-commerce, programmed and automatic online purchase grows

But not only electronic commerce (e-commerce) has gained adherents during confinement. “The situation of COVID-19 has boosted electronic commerce, but the same is happening with automated commerce (a-commerce), especially for the convenience it means for the consumer,” says Xavier García, associate professor of the Studies of Economy and Business of the UOC. Automated commerce (a-commerce or automated commerce) is a way of buying in which the client schedules a certain purchase and automates the process without having to participate in it again. It is normally used for recurring or regularly consumed products. “There are low-value products that we need in our daily lives but that we only remember to buy when they are missing (cleaning products, personal hygiene, certain foods?). If they arrive at our home without having to ask for them, with the appropriate frequency, it is a time and problem saving, ”says García. The expert adds that, if the large automated commerce operators manage to fine-tune their algorithms, it will be implemented in many more households. “Furthermore, operators, by being able to predict the volume of purchases of a product by each consumer, can offer much more competitive prices,” he says.

But the consumer after the pandemic will not only buy online: experts agree that it will have a dual aspect, online and in person. “It will continue buying online because there are many people who are afraid to go to the large stores. Possibly this will push small local businesses, which offer a quality product at a good price and which do not have the crowds of people that large stores can present, “explains Ana Isabel Jiménez Zarco, professor of Economics and Business Studies at the UOC. In this line, according to data from Kantar, neighborhood or regional supermarkets and chains with more presence in neighborhoods? Such as DIA or Eroski? They have gained a share in the consumer market compared to large hypermarkets.

You will return to the white label and be more attentive to promotions and offers

The serious economic crisis caused by this pandemic directly implies a loss of consumers’ economic capacity. “They will probably bet on cheaper and more basic products and will rationalize their purchase, in a similar way to what happened in the 2008 crisis,” says Gázquez-Abad. For the expert, we will see a further reduction in the supply of many chains – not as pronounced as in the previous crisis – in order to be able to offer a cheaper shopping basket without leaving to be complete. A consumer with loss of economic capacity will be a more attentive customer to offers and promotions. “It will increase the sensitivity to consumer prices and, therefore, their sensitivity to promotions. It is likely that we will see an increase in promotional pressure in many chains and brands, “explains Gázquez-Abad.

“In this context, many of the private label or private label brands will benefit, since greater rationalization, as a result of less economic capacity, will lead the consumer to value more those brands with better value for money,” he adds. Gázquez-Abad. Although he predicts an increase in private labels, the expert says that it will be slight, far from the 10% growth in market share that occurred between 2007 and 2013, for example.

“The way of consuming will be more controlled because the domestic economies will be harmed. The ecological trend of recent years will depend on the purchasing power of each family: the organic product is usually more expensive and, therefore, it can become the “luxury” of the high economies, “says Soler. In addition, the expert adds that, “although private labels have increasingly introduced organic products in their ranges, and given that the economic crisis we are undergoing now will trigger the consumption of private labels (as occurred in the last crisis), if Prices are affordable, it could be that the consumer consumes a private label, but also an organic product ”, adds the expert.

The consumer pays by card for fear of contagion

According to data from the mobile bank N26, the cash withdrawal in Spain fell 68% during the month of March, at the beginning of the confinement. In fact, this is the first crisis in which the demand for cash decreases rather than increases. Thus, card payment will be the preferred modality of consumers, and that is good news for sellers. “As a consequence of the fear of contagion, it is almost certain that the consumer will use less cash to make purchases in supermarkets (and, in general, in retail stores) and will increase the use of the card and mobile payment methods,” he says. Gázquez-Abad. In addition, he adds that “this also benefits stores, since it has been shown that the use of a card? Instead of cash? it increases the level of impulsiveness of purchases and increases the average cost for each purchase occasion ». This factor can increase the number of promotional actions at points of sale to stimulate impulsive and unplanned purchases.

Will the fashion consumer change?

And the fashion consumer, will it change its consumption pattern to the detriment of fast fashion (fast fashion) or will it go out to buy massively? “Many people will take advantage of opening physical stores as a way to” get out “and” enjoy “the lack of confidence. Apart from buying fashion products and accessories, the consumer uses visiting the stores as a way of obtaining non-functional, but rather relational, hedonic or distracting value, “says Jiménez Zarco.

Along these lines, Neus Soler concludes that although people have already adopted an environmental conscience, if they experience economic difficulties, they will pass the individual interest over the collective or community. So if your economy does not allow you to buy an ecological or sustainably produced product, for example, because of your good will, you will not be able to collaborate with the environment.