How The Pandemic Has Shaped Consumers And Businesses

How The Pandemic Has Shaped Consumers And Businesses

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Patrick Reynolds is Senior VP of Data & Services Marketing at Mastercard, and former CMO of engagement and loyalty platform SessionM.

Over the past year, the offline world slowed down, while the online world hit the gas hard. Covid-19 caused a macro-shift in market trends that we see only a few times in a lifetime.

I saw the advent of the internet in the 90s. And now I’ve seen the effects of a global pandemic.

Now, more than a year after the mass movement to remote work and social distancing, we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Though we are still in the hazy early days of Covid-19’s long-term impact, we can already discern some of the enduring changes taking shape and how those are (or should be) impacting businesses’ priorities.

Distancing sparks a new wave of digital users.

It’s undeniable how pandemic closures and social distancing measures have accelerated our digital and connected lifestyles. In fact, consumers spent an additional $900 billion on online retail worldwide in 2020. And we’re projecting roughly 20% to 30% of that shift to digital to be permanent.

Not only are people using digital channels to purchase goods and services they may not have before, but new users who may have resisted digital platforms in the past have climbed on the bandwagon, either out of necessity or desire for connection in an isolated world.

Whatever the reason, businesses across the board have found themselves urgently prioritizing their digital transformation efforts in order to grow and attract these new consumers.

The digital wave isn’t something we’ll be able to put back into the box. Now that consumers have seen and experienced what’s possible with today’s technology, the days of waiting in traffic, in line or at the doctor’s office are gone.

5G evolution takes responsive engagement to another level.

Well-timed with the pandemic digital wave, the rise of 5G has accelerated innovation in AI, blockchain and IoT by enabling us to communicate and move information faster than ever before.

As a result, consumers are already developing a baseline expectation for responsive digital experiences and omnichannel interactions. Businesses must be able to engage people with seamless, differentiated experiences across all channels to drive preference and retention in response.

Social movements play a role in recovery.

There have been social movements throughout history, but the rise of social activism was noticeable and further fueled by the heightened emotions and attention to digital platforms in 2020.

Businesses working to recover from Covid-19’s financial impacts are also encountering pressure from consumers to address these difficult social questions in the process. The two goals are now linked, signaling a shift in corporate attention and priorities.

A trust crisis makes information more powerful.

Trust in traditional sources of information and authority are at an all-time low. Fewer than half of all Americans now acknowledge any kind of trust in the mainstream media. This dearth of a shared source of truth has made firsthand, first-party data and experiences all the more powerful.

For businesses, operating and engaging with consumers effectively in this new reality means keeping abreast of the latest market and individual consumer insights. Fostering direct connections and meeting consumers where they are is more critical than ever before.

Security and privacy have reached consumer consciousness.

Between declining trust, new regulations such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and rising high-profile cyberattacks, cybersecurity and privacy concerns reached the consumer consciousness amid the pandemic in a way they haven’t in the past.

Ensuring secure data and regulatory compliance is now a core part of business operations — not just for reassuring corporate stakeholders and partners, but also for attracting and retaining customers. This priority is as true for well-known enterprises as it is for small businesses across all industries.

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. The full scope of these trends will come into focus in the years to come and we’ll certainly see new ones emerge as well. But for businesses beginning to recover and reset their agendas after an insanely disruptive year, it’s critical to understand these changes and how they’re influencing behavior and priorities.


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