The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way consumers engage with brands and products. This has an effect on packaging as agencies try to appeal to consumers in new ways during the post-Covid era. Online shopping is quite different from in-store purchasing and packaging needs to stand out on a screen rather than on a shelf.
Accenture, the global services and consulting company, conducted a worldwide consumer survey and found that 45% of shoppers are making more ethical, sustainable and eco-friendly purchases since the start of the pandemic. Similarly, the increase in online shopping as a direct result of Covid-19 is staggering; UK e-commerce sales have grown by 74% over the past year.
These stats point to new trends and shifts in consumer needs. Packaging companies and brands around the world need to consider these changes as they are likely to become permanent. The pandemic has adjusted mindsets and shopping habits, so here are four of the most important consumer needs in the post-Covid era.
1. Online purchases now the preferred option
The worldwide growth in e-commerce has been increasing every year for the past decade, but the pandemic really forced this method of shopping to grow. Most countries experienced at least one lockdown during 2020, where people were asked to stay home as much as possible. While many supermarkets and stores were allowed to stay open, those shops deemed non-essential had to close their doors or move to online sales.
Online shopping deliveries or click-and-collect services became a necessity for most stores. Many major stores reported triple-digit growth in their e-commerce sales during 2020. This is unsurprising for many stores that were traditionally retail-only. However, growth was also experienced by online stores. Amazon reports a 37% increase in sales from February 2020 to January 2021.
These figures and the forecasted growth for online sales in 2021 (and beyond) point to an essential need for consumers in the post-Covid era. Packaging needs to appeal to online shoppers and stand out on a web page. It also needs to fulfill its protective function and protect products during transit, especially now that products are being shipped worldwide through delivery services.
2. Consumers making more conscious decisions
Sustainability has been a growing trend in recent years, but with shifting consumer mindsets as a result of Covid-19, it has now become more important. A research paper on conscious consumerism published by DHR International states that “consumers crave better options – by making the choice straightforward and easy, they’ll be more likely to make the ‘better’ choice.”
In addition, this research found that sustainable purchasing is the true future of retail and will become the smarter and more profitable option. Another white paper published by Capgemini found that around 80% of consumers are changing their preferences based on a brand’s environmental impact and social responsibility. This same report also states that Covid-19 has increased consumer awareness of sustainability and the use of natural resources. This proves that sustainable, recyclable and reusable packaging is a major consumer need.
3. Buying local post-Covid
According to Kantar, a data, insights and consulting company, just under 60% of consumers prefer products that offset their environmental impact. This includes products that come from local or nearby locations, where the carbon footprint of delivery services is reduced. Kantar’s research points towards an accelerated need for localism and its impact on sustainability. Their findings also state that, globally, two-thirds of consumers are now in favour of buying products from their own country.
One example of this in the real world is the success of C’est qui le Patron – a French food brand that pays farmers a higher price for local, organic products. They have been able to set this up because consumers are more willing to pay a premium for local goods amid the global pandemic. This is important for packaging designers as localism needs to become a key consideration in terms of sourcing materials for packs, as well as for lowering the carbon footprint of supply and distribution channels.
4. Shift to better value
Value for money has always been a key driving factor in the retail industry. However, in the post-Covid era, value is becoming more essential. A 2020 study conducted by management firm, McKinsey, found that 40% of American consumers reduced their spending on goods during the pandemic. This means that brands need to push for better value, whether perceived or real, in order to appeal to consumers during the pandemic.
Packaging has an important role to play in value perception, especially in the luxury sector. A pack can directly make or break the first impression of a product, which often comes down to whether the product is worth buying or not. This perceived value for money is likely to be a core consideration for more consumers in the post-Covid era, where many people have faced job losses and salary cuts.
These four considerations outline the biggest consumer needs in the wake of the global pandemic. Covid certainly changed the world in a number of ways; shopping, retail and packaging all felt the effects of the virus in 2020. Packaging companies and brands need to be mindful of what their consumers really want now that a general shift in priorities and judgement have taken place.
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