This year has been defined by caution and anxiety, as public health took precedence worldwide and heightened tensions sparked civil unrest among some global economies such as the US. It is crucial for businesses to identify and understand these key consumer developments in order to prepare new, set trends in the coming years. New insights obtained by GlobalData signify that COVID-19’s impact on consumers’ mental health has highlighted the importance of brand trust and loyalty.

Since GlobalData’s first COVID-19 consumer survey, conducted in March, found that *1four out of five (83%) of consumers felt concerned about the global COVID-19 outbreak, impacts on mental health have been a cause for worry, particularly as the latest figures show these concerns to remain high at (79%)*2. This is changing the ways in which consumers approach shopping occasions. Following the initial ‘panic buying’ observed earlier in the year, physical shops have been struggling with reduced footfall due to lockdowns. However, despite global economic downturns set to continue due to COVID-19’s knock-on impacts; the online business-sphere has flourished through online platforms rather than in-person shopping – as displayed by Amazon’s skyrocketing sales figures during 2020.

Businesses that have previously remained offline have had to quickly adapt to changing consumer preferences that demand online availability. As almost half*3 of consumers note that they will continue to buy more products online rather than visit a store in ‘the new normal’, it appears that consumer behaviours have made a more permanent change than previously anticipated. In 2021 and beyond, businesses will need to continue to adapt their operations so consumers feel comfortable using their products or service.

Notably, as of December, the majority *2(53%) of consumers globally are still quite or extremely concerned about their mental wellbeing as a result of the pandemic. This provides a significant point of contact, wherein brands can build consumer trust by offering bespoke, convenient services that cater to their customers’ needs. Particularly in the context of the bleak economic outlook, closer relationships and trust between brands and consumer will be all the more important going forward; this is because, as consumer’s purses tighten amid the economic downturn, they are likely to drop surplus or luxury products; by positioning itself as trustworthy, reliable and aligned to the consumers’ values, it will be perceived as indispensable and help to build further brand loyalty.

Moreover, 51%*4 of global consumers have reported that ‘secure and tamper-proof sealed packaging’ is more important to them now, resultant of COVID-19, reflecting a relatively simple example of how businesses can adapt their products to ensure that their customers feel as comfortable as possible when purchasing and using their products.

As the effects of the pandemic will continue to vastly affect everyone’s day-to-day lives for the foreseeable future, transparent and adaptive business practices that support the mental health and wellbeing of its consumers and their changing demands is one of the most effective ways of ensuring a sustainable future in the volatile economic climate.

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*1 GlobalData’s weekly COVID-19 tracker – Week 1, published April 1st – Global – Combined responses: “Extremely concerned” and “Quite concerned”.

*2 GlobalData’s COVID-19 recovery tracker survey – week 11, published December 7th – Global – Combined responses: “Extremely concerned” and “Quite concerned”.

*3 GlobalData’s COVID-19 recovery tracker survey – week 11, published December 7th – Global

*4 GlobalData’s COVID-19 recovery tracker survey – week 11, published December 7th – Global – Combined responses: “It is now my top priority”, “Significantly more important than before” and “Slightly more important than before”