The COVID-19 aftermath: learn from the future, not the past

GlobalData Consumer 16 June 2020 (Last Updated June 16th, 2020 16:50)

Lots has now been written about the changes we’ve seen in the consumer goods markets during the world's coronavirus lockdowns. But after roughly three months of lockdown across much of the western world, perhaps it’s time to look towards the future; which trends will emerge victorious post-lockdown?

The COVID-19 aftermath: learn from the future, not the past

Lots has now been written about the changes we’ve seen in the consumer goods markets during the world’s coronavirus lockdowns. Whether it’s pubs delivering pints in boxes, McDonald’s amassing hours’ long drive-thru queues, or the meal deal falling out of vogue. But after roughly three months of lockdown across much of the western world, perhaps it’s time to look towards the future; which trends will emerge victorious post-lockdown?

When trying to figure out which consumer trends we will see post-lockdown, it is not as simple as trying to identify which current trends will stick. Post-lockdown consumer habits will likely constitute an amalgamation of the habits, anxieties, loves, and fears that people collected throughout this process; human behavior and its relationship to the economy does not always follow rational logic – just think back to the 2008 financial crisis.

It was often stated in the UK press that Britain was ‘three weeks behind Italy’ in being hit by the virus. Italy, in turn, was about four weeks behind China, which has now emerged from lockdown. The situation in Italy was indeed the UK’s future, and sure enough the people of Britain experienced a near-total lockdown for weeks on end, just as the Italians had before them. Using this logic of countries being on a sort of fixed trajectory, we can now look to China for indications of what the future might hold for global coronavirus hotspots, Europe and the Americas.

The retail live-stream

Online shopping will likely have a lasting effect post-lockdown, despite it no longer being as necessary. In China, retail live-streaming has taken off, with one apple farmer in Shaanxi amassing over 200,000 shoppers to his live-stream in which he enthusiastically proclaimed his apples to be “juicy, crispy, and sweet”. He sold 100 tons of apples as a result. Indeed, China’s Ministry of Commerce stated there were more than four million such streams in the first quarter of 2020.

This trend of bringing the social side of shopping online will likely be pursued by businesses in the west too. With high-streets and malls already in decline, and social media increasingly replacing face-to-face socializing, the day out shopping with friends may only survive online.

A personalized touch

The rise of subscription delivery services and their ability to rapidly tailor their products to the individual consumer will likely have a lasting legacy post-COVID. If people have gotten more used to having their needs met so meticulously, the old one-size-fits-all format may lose its appeal.

Comfort and cocooning

The desire to perfect one’s home into the ultimate comfort-castle has seen increased sales in high-quality bedding, heated towel racks, and home entertainment tech. Those who have indulged in this heightened state of coziness may not want to return to their pre-lockdown relative discomfort.

What these trends tell us is that the future is heading into an increasingly tailored existence. Whilst previous convenience trends such as on-the-go reigned supreme during the 2010s, consumers are now adapting to a more home-centric lifestyle, and brands must adapt their offerings to better suit these needs.