How has consumer behaviour evolved into a looming business challenge during COVID-19?

How has consumer behaviour evolved into a looming business challenge during COVID-19?

As Australian businesses brace for the economic impact of COVID-19, another looming challenge may emerge from the aftermath - the "new normal" of consumer behaviour and preference.

Humans are one of the most resilient species due to the adaptability of their behaviours.

Consumers also evolve and adapt. New forms of consumer behaviours, like any other human behaviours, are developed only if they are simple, trailable, compatible with our lifestyle and, most importantly, offer observable benefits.

The pandemic has accelerated adaptation toward digital consumption.

It has not only forced some consumers to trial online shopping but in many cases, digital was the only viable behaviour to purchase, learn, work and entertain themselves.

This has compelled many consumers to see the relative benefits of this novel consumption norm. But what does this phenomenon mean to businesses?

Although offline experiences will never become obsolete, the retail footprint will decline and force businesses to compete in the online arena - already a highly competitive market with alternative offerings and prices only a click away.

Merely being online will not be sufficient for businesses.

Our recent experiences with digital platforms will continue to fuel and evolve our expectations.

Consumers will start to expect more intuitive platform designs, efficient payment processes, responsive one-on-one interactions, relevant content at the right time, seamless integration between online and offline experience, faster and trackable delivery and more.

Businesses need to identify every step that consumers take to make an actual purchase, both offline and online.

At each of these steps, timely and relevant content should be designed to assist consumers in completing their desired action and nudge them toward the next step.

This could be a simple digital ad that pops up when a topic is being searched, or a real-time tracker that shows the delivery of a parcel by time instead of date.

Every step should be integrated into an ecosystem of experience that provides consumers with a unique and compelling reason to purchase and repurchase.

Businesses must adapt to consumers and their evolving behaviours.

Businesses will take years to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, but they may only have a small window of opportunity to embrace digital transformation until survival of the fittest claims another casualty in the Australian business landscape.

Dr Billy Sung, School of Marketing at Curtin University