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How COVID-19 Is Changing Consumer Behavior

Social DistancingSuccessful merchants have always known it’s important to align their operations with trending consumer behaviors. Consumer needs and expectations, however, change with the times. Global market research firm Ipsos explains that consumer behavior typically changes based on the channels that are available to them, social influences, new information, emotion, and routine. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has given merchants a crash course in the impact of all of those areas on consumer behavior and why it’s imperative to provide experiences that accommodate them.

In 2020, consumers are still convenience-driven, but now, they’re also very conscious of their health and safety. Moreover, that awareness is unlikely to change until the virus can be effectively treated or a vaccine is developed. To maintain their competitiveness, merchants must find ways to make doing business easy and convenient in the era of social distancing and “stopping the spread.”

How Consumer Behavior Is Changing

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has driven a variety of changes in consumer behavior, including:

Online ordering and e-commerce: Many consumers had embraced e-commerce before the coronavirus pandemic, but stay-at-home orders forced them to use these channels more often and to try new options. For example, in 2020, shoppers may have ordered groceries for curbside pickup or delivery for the first time or ordered from a restaurant online ordering service for home delivery.

If merchants provided positive customer experiences, consumers discovered how convenient e-commerce and online ordering could be — especially if they used tokenized payments to streamline repeat orders, pickup processes and easier returns easier. Good e-commerce and online ordering experiences may have helped establish new consumer behaviors that will persist even after coronavirus is defeated.

Stocking up: It will be a long time before consumers forget the empty aisles where they could usually find disinfectants, paper products and other essentials. Shoppers may tend to stock up and purchase bigger orders during one trip to the store, rather than making multiple trips and buying smaller quantities.

Merchants need to manage their supply chains and inventory in new ways to ensure they have enough in-demand items on hand. If retailers notice a persistent change in consumer behavior, it may also be a good time to reevaluate payment processing fees, which can change based on the number of transactions and average ticket size.

Social distancing: Waiting in a line may be uncomfortable for some people — especially if they feel other people are standing too close or if they aren’t wearing face masks. Merchants may want to consider mobile point of sale (mPOS) that enables a sales associate, who respects social distancing, to help people in the showroom or in the aisles so they don’t have to wait in line. Self-service kiosks may also become more popular, especially if merchants provide wipes, hand sanitizer, and clean styluses use with a touchscreen.

Entertainment and staycations: After stay-at-home orders are lifted, consumers will want to get out and resume some activities; however, they won’t want to put their family’s health at risk. To help consumers enjoy some time out, restaurants will need to find ways to assure diners that they can safely dine — for example, with outdoor seating, extra space between tables, and visibly cleaning all shared items like menus and chairs. Movie theaters may want to block seats to allow for distancing. Other hospitality or entertainment venues will need to adapt their operations to give their customers the assurance that they are helping to protect their customers’ health.

New ways to Shop Small: Consumers loyal to particular businesses hit hard by the shutdown are looking for ways to help keep them in business. Merchants such as salons, gyms, dance studios, child care services, apparel retailers, book stores, and florists may want to consider promotions that enable their customers to prepay or purchase gift cards so their customers can help them now — and enjoy their products and service later.

Digital payment: Studies have shown that paper money and coins commonly carry viruses and bacteria. All forms of digital payment, including restaurant pay at the table, mobile wallets, and contactless payment cards, in which only the customer touches the credit card, may become preferred forms of payment.

Rise to the Occasion

As a trusted POS solutions provider, you need to study the trends that impact your clients’ businesses and be ready with solutions that can help them adapt — whether they need online ordering capabilities, self-service kiosks, gift cards, or a new payments platform. They’ll also need your help to see ROI and to budget in light of cash flow changes.

Your advice can help build a successful strategy that helps your clients through changing consumer behaviors related to COVID-19 so that they can keep their businesses viable. Partnering with your clients to help them through the changes related to this crisis can also help you build deeper, stickier relationships with your customers that will help sustain your business through this trying time as well.

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