OTTAWA — Consumers appear to be shifting back to pre-pandemic behavior and priorities, according to Intouch Insight’s followup to its spring 2020 study into changes in consumer habits due to COVID-19 and what that means for convenience stores and gas stations.
Commuters are returning to the roads, businesses are reopening and comfort levels have risen, the study said. Retailers need to understand today's expectations in order to build better processes that keep employees and customers safe, the provider in customer experience management (CEM) software and services said.
Here are a few of the highlights from the study ...
Frequency of visits
With measures around the pandemic in full force in May 2020 across many North American jurisdictions, 73% of survey respondents indicated a decrease in frequency of visits to convenience stores and gas stations, the Intouch Insight study said. Today, as businesses and workplaces begin to open up, the numbers appear to be making a comeback, with 50% of respondents reporting a decrease in frequency of visits, it said.
Consumers are demonstrating a return to pre-pandemic priorities, with 80% of respondents reporting convenience and location as an extremely important factor, compared to only 22% in May.
“It is important to note that the data suggests consumers are once again motivated by things like convenience, location and price when making buying decisions—a shift that greatly resembles pre-pandemic consumer behavior,” said Cameron Watt, president and CEO of Intouch Insight, Ottawa, Ontario.
Consumers are also willing to shop in new ways, the study said. Respondents want businesses to invest in better online ordering capabilities. New services such as curbside pickup provided by convenience and fuel operators are sticking, although overall adoption is low.
Almost 20% of respondents say they have taken advantage of new service options offered by convenience stores, such as curbside pickup or delivery. For those who have, 86% of early adopters say they will continue using these new services.
Retailers should take an omnichannel approach to selling products and services, enabling consumers to shop in the ways that suit them best, Intouch Insight said.
And activity around self-service options continues to decline, with an average of 9% more respondents reporting that they are extremely unlikely to use self-serve condiments or coffee bars, purchase self-dispensed beverages, or purchase food from a bakery case or roller grill, since May.
Though consumers are more frequently visiting physical establishments, the use of communal spaces and facilities such as condiment or coffee bars continues to decline, said the study. Consumers still prefer crew-service over self-service when it comes to ordering prepared food and coffee, it said. Considerations need to be made around reimagining and repurposing physical spaces that aren't being used, to better serve today's consumer, it also said.
Sanitization and safety
Availability of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer was identified as one of the top drivers of comfort in the October study, with 82% of respondents rating it as extremely important, up 33% since May.
“Though comfort levels have increased over the past six months, the study also showed that visibly reinforcing safety measures and social distancing guidelines continues to be of great importance to today's consumer,” Watt said.
Intouch Insight offers a portfolio of CEM products and services that help brands strengthen their reputation. Through its flagship software-as-a-service (SaaS) product, LiaCX, the company helps clients collect and centralize data from multiple customer touchpoints, gives them actionable, real-time insights and provides them with the tools to improve the customer experience.