Change. We’ve all experienced a tremendous amount in the past year and a half thanks to the pandemic. New trends in how we shop and work have taken hold and may become the “new normal”, especially since the pandemic is still not over. The Delta variant to #COVID-19 as well as other variants, continue to spread across the globe altering how we live and work.
What have we learned from 2020?
One of the new trends people learned is how to search and shop online. That trend is now a permanent way of buying goods and services. People who never explored online shopping, except for perhaps Amazon, learned to shop online for just about anything from groceries, to home gym equipment, and easy, relaxed clothing. While many people are eager to get back to shopping in person, they have higher expectations of the retailers. We do still want to touch and feel the products we buy. That’s an advantage a physical location provides, However, the experience has to be a good one or we’ll go elsewhere. Consumers now expect the same products to be available both online and in physical stores. According to research by the Marketing Insider Group, “options and immediate availability will be key.” So will proper safety procedures. We now expect to see hand sanitizer stations around the stores and will look for canisters of sanitizer wipes to clean the carts. Until pandemic threats are reduced dramatically, consumers will be wary and watching to see how well in-store personnel follow safety procedures.
Some Businesses Thrived
Another new trend we found was that businesses that pivoted and were creative in delivering products and services during periods of shutdown actually thrived. Consumers still needed to shop for groceries and craved getting food prepared by their favorite restaurants. The difference was they were ordering online or via phone and picking it up to go. A new Acronym developed called BOPUS (Buy Online, Pick Up In Store). A local mead producer in our area created “date night experiences”. They teamed up with other local businesses to provide an experience that included appetizers, locally made bread, wine or mead, and flowers. Another local restaurant chef chose 2020 to launch one of her dreams. She now offers chef-prepared meals that she ships nationwide. Just pop it in the oven to warm it up, and presto, you have a 5-star meal prepared by a well-known chef.
Consumer Loyalty is gone.
A change in consumer loyalty is a third trend we’ve seen. Whereas pre-pandemic consumers tended to shop their favorite brands, during the pandemic, they started exploring other options. Across all generations, people explored and shopped at least five new brands online. According to Raydiant’s State of Consumer Behavior 2021, 25% of consumers reported they switched brands more frequently during the pandemic than before. Thanks to increased conveniences like faster delivery and more choice, consumers found better options when searching online. That behavior will probably be permanent.
Home is Where Everything Happens
Another new trend the Marketing Insider Group found is that the “home is now the hub of where all things happen”. We purchased gym equipment to stay active and physically fit at home. We bought comfortable, relaxed athletic clothing for work and play. Those who began working from home, and still do, equipped their home offices the necessary technology. Zoom meetings became a daily staple for all of us. That meant we needed webcams and headsets attached to our computers. I recall at one point early in 2020 when it was impossible to find webcams. Now, while we may be going out a bit more, and work may be more of a hybrid situation, more of us still plan to work from home.
The new trend towards more remote work will continue as the pandemic eases and the world tries to find a new normal. This trend may be balanced with hybrid work situations where staff come into the office one or two days a week and work from home the rest of the time. Others will simply work from home on a permanent basis depending on their work situation. This certainly appeals to many younger workers who value work flexibility based on project deadlines rather than an 8 to 5 work routine.
Worker Shortage is an Ongong Challenge
The big challenge that may carry over into 2022 is finding enough workers. In 2020, many older workers chose retirement, and other employment-age people either prefer only to work remotely or have moved away. A few restaurants in our area have to close one or two days during the week or several hours each day because they can’t cover the shifts. Others are offering steep signing bonuses and creative incentives to attract workers. The workforce shortage is happening across all industries and in all areas.
Employers will have to get creative to re-design how work is done and new ways to still serve customers well with fewer employees. A new trend caused by this worker shortage is the hiring of more gig and contract workers to fill the void. Other businesses are incorporating more flexibility in work hours, projects and cross-training. These may present challenges for HR departments as they evaluate performance management processes and benefit options (see 9Future of Work Trends Post-COVID-19). It may no longer be effective to have a one size fits all performance review system.
Employees Care About Branding and Reputation
A June 25, 2021 blog by Glassdoor states that branding and reputation are important for employees and job seekers. The blog states that 86% said they research company reviews and ratings when deciding where to apply for a job.
The article also states a new trend indicating that three factors are most important for employee satisfaction: a compelling company mission, promoting transparent and empathic leaders, and building clear career opportunities.
According to a Gartner report, other key areas employees and job seekers check include the following:
1) how well employers treated their employees both during and post-pandemic, 2) how openly and frequently management communicated with employees, and
3) whether or not executives shared in the financial impacts of the pandemic versus the broader employee base.
Clearly, the world of work has changed and employers need to adjust. Key takeaways from these new trends are:
- Consumers have higher expectations and want the same products available online as well as in-store
- Customer service is important and consumers will stop buying based on one bad experience
- An online presence is more important now than ever before
- Flexible work environments that include hybrid work are important for workers as well as employer transparency and reputations
- Employers need to reinvent workflows and introduce cross training
- HR departments need to reevaluate payroll, benefits, and performance management systems