As we start to emerge from the COVID pandemic, it becomes apparent that the world has changed. Not only have COVID lockdowns led to remote work and home office becoming more acceptable, they have also had a strong impact on consumer preferences and consumer behavior.
Gathering results from numerous market research studies and consumer surveys, the US chamber of commerce summarizes in its extensive article on changes in consumer behavior post-COVID that there are three important trends:
- Lockdowns have caused people to shop closer to home and start patronizing local stores in their community over large retail chains and shopping malls. A vast majority of consumers surveyed state that they will continue with this preference post-pandemic.
- Particularly at-home-dining and food delivery services have blossomed due to the COVID pandemic. This has not only boosted demand for meals prepared by local restaurants but led to restaurants and food retailers developing new, innovative eat-at-home-experiences like food trucks preparing just-in-time-meals in affluent neighborhoods.
- Consumers of all age groups (millennials, Gen Y, Gen Z, baby boomers) have increasingly turned to social commerce, particularly Instagram, to discover and more quickly buy from smaller, unknown brands based on product attractiveness. The number of website interactions consumers need before making a purchase has decreased.
What makes buying locally more attractive?
The trends clearly show that more and more consumers embrace shopping locally. This is little surprising if we consider how the consumers themselves profit by this shift in their shopping preferences.
By spending their money locally, consumers strengthen the local economy and keep purchasing power within their community. If shopping with large retailers and online stores instead, the profits may be moved to different regions or countries where tax schemes prove to be more favorable for large corporations.
The stronger and more alive the local economy is with flourishing businesses and shops, the more likely it is to attract more businesses and stores that contribute to an attractive and blossoming economy with a large variety of products and services being offered. Consumers have a wider array of offerings and stores to choose from. As a side effect, the townships profit from better infrastructure overall, contributing to a higher quality of life.
Shopping locally also serves the environment and increases convenience. As consumers’ shopping routes shorten, they get to save time and hassle otherwise spent in traffic jams and travelling across town. Consumers end up saving on gasoline and ultimately CO2 emissions are reduced, saving nature and planet.
A greater sense of community
Ultimately, however, the shift in consumer preferences to shopping locally has primarily happened due to consumers wanting to help out and support their neighbors and community in times of economic hardship and challenge instead of shopping with big retail chains and online retailers.
It simply makes for better quality of life and happiness knowing that you live in a community where people help and support each other at a deep level. The personal relationships and connections formed between consumers and local retailers, restaurant and shop owners bring value, happiness and smiles to the lives of everyone involved.
Conclusion: Is it a trend or real change?
Considering that (possible) lockdowns have accompanied us for the last 18+ months and habits take around 66 days to stick, it is safe to assume that the change in consumer behavior is long-lasting if not permanent. Consumers have built closer connections with entrepreneurs and local store owners in their area and are likely to keep patronizing them over big retail chains and shopping malls.
Consumers realize that this not only helps to foster a stronger sense of community but ultimately helps them as it creates jobs and secures purchasing power in the region and helps ensure a better infrastructure overall.