The Post-COVID Consumer: Someone Worth Counting
Episode #1: Pandemic Induced Shifts in Retail Consumer Behavior… Forever?
As a provider of foot traffic collection systems, we at SenSource have a unique vantage point of the retail industry. Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen changes in how and why our retail customers seek out SenSource technologies for their stores. We hope to capture that insight in our discussions as we interview key personnel from our office, including our General Manager and Marketing, Software, and Technical Support leaders.
In our three-part video series, we’re taking a look at shifts in retail consumer behavior. The Covid-19 pandemic made dramatic changes in how people shop. In this first video, Andy Clutter, Marketing Director, and Jessica Lipply, Marketing Coordinator, will take a look at which behavior changes are likely to stick.
Historically, retailers knew their shoppers’ behaviors, it was very predictable. They knew the times and hours of the day that shoppers would come, peak seasons, it was all very routine.
And I’m sure you can think back on your own shopping experiences and think of how consistent those were.
But obviously when the pandemic hit, our shopping habits had to change. Stores that were labeled as non-essential had to close their doors and we had to learn new ways of going about getting what we needed.
And Andy, you do a lot of the grocery shopping for your family, so just tell us a little about how your shopping has changed since the onset of the pandemic.
I do a lot of the grocery shopping for the family. It’s something I’ve always done, even before we had kids at home. It’s something I enjoy doing and I do a lot of the cooking as well, so I know what I’m looking for.
But the biggest change, I would say, is before the pandemic, grocery shopping was a family outing. We would go have lunch, we would take our time going through the store, and we would just load up the car with everybody.
Now that has significantly changed. Now it’s a one-man show, I go on my own, I get in and out. I would say behaviors and buying habits have changed, specifically when it came to grocery shopping.
We are located in Ohio, so our retail consumer behavior may be a little different than yours depending on where you are, our viewers. But Andy, did you come across a lot of stores that had occupancy limits?
There were quite a few stores that were monitoring occupancy and keeping their eye on it – whether it was employees sitting at the front with a pen and paper, just keeping track of how many people were coming and going – or if it was just some type of guideline. My particular grocery store, for example, has a number on the door and said you cannot exceed this number of people in the store, but it didn’t really seem like anyone was actively patrolling it.
Even this far down the road, I think a lot of people are still trying to avoid the crowds, they don’t want to go into a crowded store right now.
And with that, and the social distancing and the cleaning and knowing that shoppers’ behaviors have changed, the retailer had to react. Their routine had to change as well to make the customer feel welcome, and invited, and safe.
Andy what are your thoughts on that struggle that businesses are dealing with right now?
Businesses are relearning their customers’ habits on the fly. And what we’ve noticed in particular in the retail segment, habits are always changing, always evolving, but a lot of that takes time – it takes years and decades for those habits to emerge.
And what we’re seeing here are dramatic shifts in shopping habits in the last 12 months. And what we’ve seen historically is businesses rely a lot on point of sale data to learn what their customers are doing, what they’re buying. And then also, retailers rely on foot traffic data. And those are two independent data streams that are kind of siloed, so you can look at either one of those data streams and learn something from them about your customers. But when you combine those two streams of data, it really helps you learn and identify habits.
So we talked a little bit about these changing behaviors, but which of these do you think are going to fade away and which of these do you think are going to stick with us into the future?
A lot of things that have emerged over the last 6 to 12 months are here to stay. I think things like curbside pickup, delivery services, those things are going to be around awhile and that’s not a bad thing for retailers, it’s just a different way to win some business. But now there’s a different battle to be won – hey, let’s make our services be the best that they can be. And I think that customer loyalty is going to be a battle whether it’s in a store or through these services that is stronger than ever before.
Yes, regardless of the changes in retail consumer behaviors, the shopper always wants the best service and the best customer service that they can get. And according to a report we found from Talk Desk Research, the post-covid shopper’s customer service expectations are higher than they were a year ago. So in episode three in our series here, we’re going to talk with our customer support manager, Dan Bricker, and discuss how those higher expectations are being met here at SenSource as well as our customers’ end-customers on their end’s expectations as well.
In our next episode, we’ll discuss the new industries that came about here at SenSource because of the pandemic. And we’ll be joined by our General Manager, Dan Aluise, as well as our Director of Software Engineering, Jeremy Forsythe.