RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • Consumers attitudes, behaviors and purchasing habits are changing—and many of these new ways will remain post-pandemic.
  • While purchases are currently centered on the most basic needs, people are shopping more consciously, buying local and are embracing digital commerce.
  • To manage isolation, consumers are using digital to connect, learn and play—and they will continue to.
  • Moving forward, we will see an increase in the virtual workforce as more people work from home and enjoy doing so.


New consumer behaviors will transform the industry's future

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the world as we know it. People are living differently, buying differently and in many ways, thinking differently. Supply chains have been tested. Retailers are closing doors. Consumers across the globe are looking at products and brands through a new lens.

The virus is reshaping the consumer goods industry in real time, rapidly accelerating long-term underlying trends in the space of mere weeks. Our research indicates that new habits formed now will endure beyond this crisis, permanently changing what we value, how and where we shop, and how we live and work.

Even as this crisis continues to evolve, by exploring the changes that are happening now, we can consider what consumer goods businesses should do today to prepare for what’s next.

Getting to know the consumer in crisis

Consumers are deeply concerned about the impact of COVID-19, both from a health and economic perspective. People are responding in a variety of ways and have differing attitudes, behaviors and purchasing habits. People across the globe are afraid as they strive to adapt to a new normal. Fear is running high as individuals contemplate what this crisis means for them, but more significantly, what it means for their families and friends, and society at large.

Consumers are responding to the crisis in a variety of ways. Some feel anxious and worried, fueling panic-buying of staples and hygiene products. At the other extreme, some consumers remain indifferent to the pandemic and are continuing their business as usual, despite recommendations from government and health professionals. CPG companies will need to understand how their own consumers are reacting, and develop customized and personalized marketing strategies for each. The days of one-size-fits-all marketing are over.

Consumers are more fearful of the economic impact of COVID-19 than for their health
Consumers are more fearful of the economic impact of COVID-19 than for their health.

Source: Accenture COVID-19 Consumer Research, conducted April 2–6. Proportion of consumers that agree or significantly agree.

New buying behaviors in this new normal

Why, what and how consumers buy is changing due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Consumer priorities have become centered on the most basic needs, sending demand for hygiene, cleaning and staples products soaring, while non-essential categories slump. The factors that influence brand decisions are also changing as a "buy local" trend accelerates. Digital commerce has also seen a boost as new consumers migrate online for grocery shopping – a rise that is likely to be sustained post-outbreak.

In times like these, our need for the basic necessities of life takes precedence. It comes as no surprise that personal health is the top priority for the consumers we surveyed, followed by the health of friends and family. Food and medical security, financial security and personal safety were other leading priorities.

New—and everlasting—shopping habits

The outbreak has pushed consumers out of their normal routines. Consumers are adapting new habits and behaviors that many anticipate will continue in the long term.

The virus has accelerated three long-term trends:

The ever-increasing focus on health

CPG brands should heed this change and make it a priority to support healthy lifestyles for consumers, shoppers and employees. Having a “health strategy” will be a strategic differentiator for the foreseeable future.

A rise in conscious consumption

Consumers are more mindful of what they’re buying. They are striving to limit food waste, shop more cost consciously and buy more sustainable options. Brands will need to make this a key part of their offer (e.g. by exploring new business models).

Growing love for local

The desire to shop local is reflected in both the products consumer buy (e.g. locally sourced, artisanal) and the way they shop (e.g. supporting community stores). CPG brands will need to explore ways to connect locally – be it through highlighting local provenance, customizing for local needs or engaging in locally relevant ways.

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Consumers expect their shopping habits to change permanently

Source: Accenture COVID-19 Consumer Research, conducted March 19–25 and April 2–6



The social impact

The COVID-19 outbreak has slowed the pace and changed daily life for many consumers, and this is having a profound impact on the way we view personal hygiene, health and how we engage with our communities, friends and families. People are embracing technology more than ever to support all aspects and consequences of isolation. There is also positive evidence to suggest that this crisis will build communities, rather than separate them.

80%

of consumers feel more or as connected to their communities

88%

of consumers expect these connections to stay intact long after the virus is contained

The ways in which people spend their leisure time are changing because of the outbreak and related social distancing measures, and again, these habits are likely to be sustained. More than half (61%) plan to continue watching more news after the outbreak, while 55% will prioritize more time with family. Entertainment, learning and DIY have also seen a rise.

This trend is reflected in the types of apps that consumers are downloading, related to entertainment, news, healthcare and education. Underlying consumer needs (e.g. to connect, to be entertained, to learn, to be informed) remain the same, yet technology is changing the way it happens. CPG companies must increase their focus on digital vs. traditional tools to engage with consumers and improve experiences.

A new virtual workforce

People are working from home as businesses close doors and encourage remote work. Many employees who have not worked remotely before—or not often—plan to do so more frequently in the future. High percentages of employees feel they have the right environment and tools for remote work, but some miss social contact. Overall, employees feel their employers have taken the right steps to protect their health and keep them well informed.

Employees who now find themselves working from home are broadly positive about the experience. Unsurprisingly, those who worked from home previously are more likely than newcomers to feel they are more productive at home and feel they are more professionally satisfied than they are in the office . CPG companies that have a virtual working strategy will strengthen their employee value proposition and show that they are in-touch with their employee preferences.

46%

of people who never worked from home previously now plan to work from home more often in the future

Change in work-from-home frequency from pre- to post-outbreak

Change in work-from-home frequency from pre- to post- COVID-19 outbreak.

Source: Accenture COVID-19 Consumer Research, conducted April 2–6, N = 1,118 respondents working from home

Staying connected with consumers

COVID-19 is a health and economic crisis that has a sustainable impact on consumer attitudes, behaviors and purchasing habits. CPG companies can adapt to these changes by taking action to respond, reset and renew to be positioned even stronger for the future.

Respond

  • Stand up a cross-functional command center with KPI tracking
  • Create an Elastic Digital Workplace task force
  • Reshape your marketing plan around new demand and brand purpose

Reset

  • Redefine relationships with consumers, customers and employees and reimagine your organization and ways of working
  • Rethink and redefine relationships with ecosystem partners
  • Reconsider your product and service portfolio

Renew

  • Accelerate the move to an intelligent data-driven operating model
  • Reprioritize enterprise investment plans for post-COVID era
  • Scan market for M&A opportunities

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