Will Retail or Consumer Behavior Ever Be the Same?


Traditional brick and mortar retail locations were already feeling the pinch before the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis reared its head, but now many fear that traditional retail may have been struck a crushing blow. With so much still unknown about how this crisis will unfold, the jury is still out on how the economy will recover. 

There is plenty of pessimism to be had in the national media, and unless you’re a supermarket or a select number of other essential services, you are likely worse off this month than you were last month. The question on the minds of prognosticators is how will the economy, in particular the retail sector, bounce back once it is all said and done. 

One theme currently being discussed is how quickly the economy will rebound, whether it will be quick or over the course of a year or two. That calculation rests on a number of unknown factors, namely how long our current ordeal lasts, and if it goes away for good or comes back in waves. 

If this is a one and done situation and we are dealing with the worst of it now, the economy may be able to pick up by the second half of the year. If it is drawn out much longer, people’s behaviors may change more drastically and the consequences for our retailers and other industries may be starker.

Consumers will at-once want to leave their house but scared to do so. When they do venture into stores, they will be hesitant to touch surfaces. Personal protective equipment, or PPE, will be a much more common sight in the streets of the nation and world. 

Brand loyalty may take a hit as consumers are forced to use other brands of, say, paper towels and find that these work just as good as the name brand. Consumers may also hold a brand accountable for not responding to the crisis exactly how they would have liked, or feel betrayed that the brand wasn’t available when they needed it.

As it stands, consumers are, out of necessity, shifting much more of their purchases online. Once the all-clear is given, how eager will they be to return to stores after two or more solid months of social distancing? Will the shift hasten the shift to eCommerce as the primary place to conduct business?

These questions and more are the topics of discussion in Zoom video chats nationwide as many enter the fourth week of working from home. One this is certain, however, is that this crisis will have broad implications for consumers, consumer behavior and the economy moving forward and we are only beginning to grasp how.