What Consumer Trends are Revealing About the New Normal
As the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to unfold, consumers’ responses to the pandemic are also continuously changing. Consumers throughout the world are responding with different actions, lifestyles, and search behaviors. Understanding these underlying insights from trending consumer search behaviors will help brands adapt their strategy for success during reopening and the future.
Uncertainty in the Start of COVID-19
The start of the pandemic led to fear and paranoia among consumers. Chatmeter data found that driving directions to businesses across all industries (through Google My Business (GMB)) dropped 44% in the month of April alone, while phone calls rose nearly 9%. These changes in local search behaviors reflect the inability for consumers to visit businesses as mandatory stay-at-home orders began to take effect. As shelter-in-place began to take effect and non-essential businesses were ordered to shut down, businesses everywhere scrambled to reinvent their business model. Changes in hours and operations resulted in U.S. businesses making 3.2x the average number of updates to their listings in the first month of COVID-19.
Source: Google My Business
Search Behaviors for the Food Services Industry
The typical weekend spent visiting brick-and-mortar stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues that were normal for the majority of Americans instantly changed. As more and more consumers started to spend more time at home, searches for alternatives dine-in options began to skyrocket. Over the last few years, local search has dominated with queries such as “restaurants near me” and general “near me” searches consistently ranking at the top.
The new normal from COVID-19 created a shift from these searches, with a 285% increase in search interest for “take out” and a 100% increase in search interest for “food delivery” related queries. The restaurant and food service industry quickly reacted to this by implementing services such as contactless delivery, ghost kitchens, and takeout services to maintain revenue streams and keep business alive. U.S. consumers have continued to prioritize their health and safety throughout this situation, with cleanliness remaining a top priority for consumers as well. Values in safety and simplicity resulted in a preference for contactless and drive-thru options among consumers during this time.
Consumer Interests in Retail
Similar behaviors have also followed suit for the retail industry. Apart from grocery stores which became one of the few essential retail businesses allowed to remain open, all other areas of the retail industry had to close their doors at the start of the pandemic. This change led to a surge in online retail shopping in consumers, with a 55% spike in online shopping week over week in April. Implementation of omnichannel services became a necessary survival strategy, with the use of services such as store pickup increasing 44% throughout the country and grocery delivery increasing 39% globally.
The rapid increase in online shopping and deliveries took a hit on a seamless customer care experience, with consumers experiencing delays in receiving orders, items out-of-stock, and other order fulfillment issues. In a time when consumers are relying on omnichannel services to fulfill their purchases, brands must ensure their operational processes are running smoothly.
New Opportunities for the Automobile Industry
One industry that has had quite a large opportunity to drive revenue throughout COVID-19 is the automotive industry. Since the start of March, online revenue for automotive brands has increased by 47%, with a 72% increase from 2019. The onset of COVID-19 brought many concerns and fears over public modes of transportation. This data shows consumers’ values of cleanliness and safety are the driving force in their purchasing decisions.
Consumers throughout COVID-19 have continuously been on the lookout for car deals, with search interest for “is it a good time to buy a car” growing more than 9 times during the pandemic. Even with a less of a “need” now for consumers to leave their house with quarantine and more work from home situations, it’s clear that consumers are willing to spend their money in this industry.
According to Think With Google’s study on how the auto industry has been impacted by COVID-19, research found that 18% of consumers looking to make auto purchases stated they would buy a vehicle sooner if there was an online purchase option. Traditionally, the auto industry has always relied on foot traffic and in-store experiences to execute car sales. Leading auto manufacturing brands such as BMW, forced to cancel their annual car expo historically held since World War II, quickly went digital as a means of survival. The pandemic led the auto industry to quickly implement virtual experiences such as at-home test drives, videoconferencing, digital showrooms, VR test drives, and more to help guide the consumer through their auto purchase journey.
COVID-19’s Impact on Travel & Hospitality
Consumer concerns and shelter-in-place orders impacted the travel and hospitality industry significantly from the start of the pandemic. In March, 82% of consumers stated they had no plans to travel during COVID-19. This negative sentiment surrounding travel was immediately felt by the hotel industry, who faced a drop in occupancy from 24% to 53% year-over-year. Luckily, it’s not all bad news for the hotel industry. June showed an increase in occupancy by an estimated 39% in comparison to April, giving hospitality brands a chance to earn back visitor interest.
If hospitality and travel brands want to win over consumers in this time, providing transparency, COVID-19 procedures, and COVID-19 specific information is essential. 65% of guests will only stay at hotels with updates on websites. This is an important time for all travel and hospitality brands to increase communication through all channels to let consumers know the safety measures they have taken to protect customers.
Consumer Behaviors During Reopening
As stores continue to reopen throughout the country, consumers are slowly returning to businesses while remaining cautious. Our data shows that consumers are continuing to call businesses before visiting, growing by 5.5% from May to June. According to Resonate, in their report on Reopening America: Up-to-the Moment U.S. Consumer Sentiment During the Pandemic they found consumers expect businesses to continuously enforce safety precautions once they’re open:
- All staff wearing masks and gloves (50%)
- Knowledge that stores would be disinfected each night (48%)
- “Forced” social distancing (46%)
- All customers wearing masks and gloves (45%)
- Reduced occupancy in the store (41%).
Shoppers have become adjusted to this new normal and expect businesses to operate differently. If businesses want to win over the confidence of consumers, they must continue to implement and follow COVID-19 specific policies and procedures during this time of reopening.
COVID-19 created many changes in how businesses had to operate, as well as changes in how consumers had to shop. It has been a confusing time with new trends and shifts everywhere, however, one thing remains constant across all industries: the desire and expectation for omnichannel services, up-to-date information, increased communication, and virtual experiences remain. Although COVID-19 created a lot of uncertainty, many of these changes and additional services that had to be adopted by brands were already trends that consumers wanted prior to the pandemic. By tailoring your business strategy to adapt to shifting consumer behaviors and utilizing local SEO to drive in-store traffic, your brand can win over consumers and find success.
For more information on how Chatmeter’s all-in-one local SEO platform can help your brand maximize customer acquisition and respond to the latest consumer trends, request a free demo today.