12 minute read

My dad is 90 years old, bless his soul, and has just picked up the use of WhatsApp. Still not a master – we get the occasional empty voice recording here and there, but there he is. On WhatsApp. COVID-19 quarantine has also acquainted him, and my mother, with Zoom, digital banking, ordering groceries online and in general – getting used to the idea that life is richer and easier when you use more digital tools.

How much of this will remain after everything is back to normal? Well, considering that the new normal is actually an unusual normal – it’s easy to guess: quite a lot. Social distancing created new habits, and either the discovery of an easier way to get things done or the fear of a second wave, will make a lot of them permanent.

The coronavirus brought a rise in digital consumption. Even consumers who were not used to searching and consuming online have no choice but to do so now, due to lockdowns and social distancing. COVID-19 made sure that consumers are doing everything online these days, even more than before. Inquiring, ordering, shopping and scheduling – everything is done online, and business owners need to make it as easy as possible for their customers to do so. Since coronavirus regulations in different countries have put a damper on brick and mortar businesses, business owners have found out they need more than just a digital presence in order to survive – they need to conduct as much of their business as they can online. Now is the perfect time to provide digital solutions to SMBs, so that they can offer their customers all the online services they got used to during lockdown.

Enter the new digitally educated consumers and digitally educated businesses!

Online content: digital information and entertainment

These days people are finding everything online, and this trend will undoubtedly continue well after this crisis is over. First and foremost: information and entertainment. According to Global Web Index, www.visualcapitalist.com/media-consumption-covid-19/ over 80% of consumers in the U.S. and UK say they consume more content since the outbreak, with broadcast TV and online videos (YouTube, TikTok) the most popular. Most of them, as high as 68%, are seeking out coronavirus pandemic updates online, more than anything else. Younger generations play games and listen to music on their mobile or computer, while millennials – notorious foodies – search for recipes. In fact, during the coronavirus lockdown, millennials searched for recipes more than during the previous Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s combined... But even if there are differences in the types of media different generations are more likely to consume, the bottom line is that everybody is searching for and finding content online.

Keeping in touch online: social media and digital communication

In addition, a recent survey in the UK shows that 40% of respondents are using social media more and 28% are using WhatsApp more. Digital means of communication are increasing no less than digital media consumption. When they can’t meet face to face, people are staying in touch with family and friends, as well as local businesses – online. And since it is so quick and easy, it’s safe to assume that a lot of people will continue doing so even after all of this is over.
Source: Statista

Online shopping: digital consumerism

In addition to finding entertainment and news online, people are also shopping online more. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, the safest and easiest way to obtain essential (and non-essential) goods is through e-commerce. Sometimes it is even the only way. No wonder e-commerce has soared. People are buying many different things online and getting them delivered to their doorstep. They are also “buying online and picking up in store” (BOPIS) more than ever and will continue doing so.
Source: Contentsquare

Even grocery shopping is shifting online. This is impressive since this field has been slow to adapt to digital. Only about 3% or 4% of grocery spending in the U.S. was online before, but it has surged to between 10% and 15%, according to research by consulting firm Bain & Company. If the online shopping habit prevails — even just for some of the new or more frequent customers — it could bring a major shift in an industry that’s been slow to go online until now.

Online financial transactions: digital banking

People are not only buying and ordering online in the age of social distancing, they are also paying digitally more than ever before, as well as conducting their banking online. 

An April 2020 William Mills Agency survey conducted by The Harris Poll found that 73% of US adults were more likely to leverage digital banking and payments while social distancing.

While it’s unclear if consumers’ online banking habits will continue like this after the pandemic passes, the current situation is introducing digital financial services to consumers who have not yet adopted them. This in turn will influence the way SMBs operate. Consumers will get used to interacting and paying online and will be expecting to do so in local businesses as well.

During lockdown, consumers have adopted new habits, forced by lockdown and provided mainly by big businesses and chain stores who already had all the digital solutions or quickly moved to deploy them. Due to the lockdown, consumers are now digitally educated and most importantly — they are going to expect the same digital solutions which made life easier for them during lockdown, from small and local businesses as well. 

To sum up

Obviously, there is no data yet, but it is safe to assume that many of these new digital habits will stick post pandemic. Some will probably prevail more than others will, but what is clear is that the digital shift that has started long before COVID-19 entered out lives, has gotten stronger, and is here to stay. Processes that would otherwise have taken a few years happened in just a few months. The data we provided shows how consumer behavior has changed in dealing with large businesses – and is bound to reflect on SMBs as well. Small and medium businesses who have not adapted yet will find out that their customers will start demanding online service, online communication and online payment.

The coronavirus crisis gave birth to new digitally educated consumers as well as digitally educated businesses – and the small and local businesses need to follow suit. Both consumers and businesses are open to the digital world like never before. Both were born out of necessity, and some of them – consumers and business owners alike – found out that this is actually quite effective. Now is the time to let SMBs know that you have the digital solutions they need. This is the time to help your clients take it up a notch, from digital presence to full digital activity.

Title Photo by Austrian National Library on Unsplash