As consumer businesses grapple with the latest enforced shutdowns, an all too familiar feeling is setting in. The impact on businesses and their staff can’t be understated.

However, it’s worth remembering that during and after the first series of lockdowns in 2020, consumers came out strongly in support of businesses. They recognised many were doing it tough, but even more importantly, applauded business’ ability to adapt to the pandemic and their rapidly changing needs.

Winning praise from consumers was no easy feat earlier in the pandemic. And although businesses are more familiar with pandemic-induced shutdowns, looking back at what worked may help those seeking to rally further support among customers.

Our inaugural CommBank Consumer Insights Report examined Australians’ shopping behaviours amid the pandemic, showing that several factors gained importance in 2020. We revisit three of those here to help businesses align with emerging consumer preferences and cement the hard-fought loyalty they captured in 2020. 

Buy local, shop local

One of the considerable shifts revealed by the research was the desire among consumers to support Australian online retailers and manufacturers, as well as local stores. This followed a renewed sense of community among consumers and a desire to support local businesses facing adversity during the pandemic.

The majority of consumers across most categories said that options to purchase Australian products had become more important following the events of 2020. With many consumers again confined to their homes and local areas, we expect this trend to continue featuring on consumers’ shopping lists.  

Maintaining a standout digital presence

A strong digital experience contributed to consumers’ positive attitudes towards businesses and positioned them to capitalise on customer loyalty once restrictions eased. Despite supply chain disruptions and, in some cases, overwhelming demand, many consumers said their online shopping and delivery experience improved during 2020.

Not only that, but among the aspects of shopping that consumers deemed more important in 2021, fast, convenient, and reliable delivery and easy-to-use websites ranked in the top five. With millions of Australians again working and shopping from home, it's crucial to continue fine-tuning the digital experience to keep consumers coming back.

Customers’ circumstances matter

In 2020, the pandemic impacted the financial and mental wellbeing of many Australians, and the latest developments will take a further toll. However, the research showed the effects of the pandemic on consumers was uneven and understanding the impact can help set a baseline for customers’ preferences and outlook.

This was best highlighted by the different experiences across the generations. The lifestyles of older generations were the least impacted. Gen X and Y experienced the most adverse physical and mental health issues, and Gen Z’s employment was more affected than others.

Currently, it’s catering to the needs of customers in various degrees of lockdown that businesses may need to adapt to. However, no matter your experience, it’s the businesses that took a personalised approach that received positive feedback in 2020 and will likely elicit a similar response this time around.

So, with the resilience of consumer businesses on full display last year, it’s encouraging that consumers got behind them. Despite the latest lockdowns again testing businesses’ resolve, it’s a timely reminder that the massive effort to keep pace with changing consumer expectations isn’t going unnoticed.

We’re here to support Australian retailers as they navigate market uncertainty. Read the full CommBank Consumer Insights Report 2021, and for more information on how we can help you, email  

Things you should know

The Consumer Insights report has been published for general information purposes only. As this information has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on this information, consider its appropriateness to your circumstances and, if necessary seek professional advice.

The Bank believes that the information in the report is correct and any opinions, conclusions or recommendations are reasonably held or made, based on the information available at the time of its compilation, but no representation or warranty, either expressed or implied, is made or provided as to accuracy, reliability or completeness of any statement made in the report. Any projections and forecasts are based on a number of assumptions and estimates and are subject to contingencies and uncertainties. Different assumptions and estimates could result in materially different results. The report refers to data sourced from an online survey of 5656 consumers. The survey was undertaken by ACA Research on behalf of the Commonwealth Bank. All analysis and views of future market conditions are solely those of the Commonwealth Bank.

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