COVID-19 has sparked a new wave of innovation across consumer industries in Canada, according to Accenture research
May 10, 2021
Successful consumer-facing companies are repurposing physical locations, exploring new business models, and rapidly adopting advanced analytics and other disruptive technologies to find new sources of growth
TORONTO; May 10, 2021 – The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Canadians live, work and socialize, accelerating demand for innovation as retailers, consumer goods, and travel companies shift from reacting to the crisis to reinventing products and services, according to findings of a new global survey from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).
After a year of lockdowns, 95 per cent of global consumers Accenture surveyed said they made at least one change to their lifestyle that they expect will be permanent. Working from home, changing travel patterns, and a growing desire to shop locally are challenging industries to fundamentally rethink how they cater to the pandemic-adapted consumer. The latest survey of more than 9,650 people in 19 countries, including 409 consumers in Canada, support Accenture’s previous findings that many changes in behaviour will likely be long-term. (Accenture also conducted booster surveys of 301 people in Toronto and another 307 in Montreal; data is below.)
“The lasting impact of the pandemic will be felt well into the future and Canadian consumer-facing companies have learned all too well why they must be agile, resilient and responsive to change,” said Jeffrey Russell, president of Accenture in Canada. “Yet these trying times have also created opportunity and ignited innovation. Many companies reinventing how they do business and expanding in new growth areas — and many are using advanced analytical capabilities to identify and make the most of changing consumption trends.”
COVID-19 has led to compressed transformation, with companies simultaneously transforming multiple parts of the enterprise and reskilling people in what previously would have been longer-term step-by-step programs. Many consumer-facing companies have re-platformed their businesses in the cloud, addressed cost pressures, and continued to build resilience and security, putting the infrastructure in place to enable innovation and position them for future success.
Dawn of the “third space”
The pandemic forced a rapid shift to consumers working from home, with many expressing that they want flexibility in how and where they work moving forward. Sixty-nine per cent of Canadians who will continue to telecommute once the pandemic subsides say that they would like to occasionally work from a “third space” — a location other than their home or place of employment — and about 30 per cent said they would be willing to pay a fee out of their own pockets to work from a café, bar, hotel, or retailer with a dedicated space. This highlights a potential opportunity to grow revenue for the hospitality and retail industries.
The desire to work from a “third space” is accompanied by a shift in attitudes towards business travel. Fifty-three per cent of Canadian respondents who normally travel for business expect to reduce such activities in the future. How long this view will hold firm remains to be seen, but the current outlook indicates that the return to travel will resume principally within the leisure market, pushing the industry to adapt and become even more efficient to make up for lost income.
“Travel and hospitality firms have had to be both creative and practical to find new revenue streams in order to keep the lights on over the past very challenging year,” said Daniel Bunyan, managing director and travel industry lead at Accenture in Canada. “We have seen hotel rooms converted into pop-up restaurants while others have created a ‘third space’ for those looking for a temporary office setting outside of their home. While there has been experimentation with innovation in select pockets, companies need to scale these new services and address travellers’ renewed focus on health and safety, for example, by using the cloud to help enable fully contactless interactions.”
Shifts in consumer habits are here to stay
Not only do consumers think some of their work habits and travel plans have likely permanently changed, many also think their shopping habits have evolved for the long haul. The latest research supports Accenture’s previously released findings that the dramatic rise in e-commerce is likely to remain or accelerate further. For instance, the proportion of online purchases for products such as food, home décor, fashion, and luxury goods by previously infrequent e-commerce users in Canada — defined as those who used online channels for less than 25 per cent of purchases prior to the outbreak — has increased 316 per cent since the outbreak.
Robin Sahota, a managing director at Accenture who leads its retail practice in Canada said, “Many leading retailers handled the rush to online shopping with relative ease based on past investments in technology, while others had to quickly accelerate their journeys to cloud and digital. When we get past the pandemic, across retail sectors, companies will need to continue to meet consumer demand for online shopping but also increase the efficiency of the channel to enable profit growth. This next retail transformation will require new investments in micro-fulfilment and supply chains, stores of the future, and the future worker, who will drive new experiences.”
Canadian Survey Results:
Percentage of Canadians who will continue to telecommute once the pandemic subsides that would like to occasionally work from a “third space” (a location other than their home or place of employment).
Percentage of Canadians who say they would be willing to pay a fee out of their own pockets to work from a café, bar, hotel, or retailer with a dedicated space.
Percentage of Canadians who normally travel for business and expect to reduce business travel in the future.
Percentage growth in online purchases for products such as food, home décor, fashion, and luxury goods by previously infrequent e-commerce users in Canada since the start of the pandemic. (infrequent defined as those who used online channels for less than 25% of purchases prior to the outbreak)
About the research
Accenture’s COVID-19 Consumer Research is tracking the changing attitudes, behaviours and habits of consumers worldwide as they adapt to a new reality during the COVID-19 outbreak. The latest waves of this survey were conducted November 28 – December 10, 2020 and February 25 – March 5, and surveyed 12,487 and 9,653 consumers respectively, in 19 countries across five continents: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UAE, UK, and USA. In addition, Accenture conducted a separate booster survey of 6,986 in 23 metro areas in North America, including 301 people in Toronto and another 307 in Montreal, February 26 – March 16.
Accenture is a global professional services company with leading capabilities in digital, cloud and security. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries, we offer Strategy and Consulting, Interactive, Technology and Operations services — all powered by the world’s largest network of Advanced Technology and Intelligent Operations centers. Our 537,000 people deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity every day, serving clients in more than 120 countries. We embrace the power of change to create value and shared success for our clients, people, shareholders, partners and communities. Visit us at www.accenture.com.