Behavior Shift: Survival Mode On

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As our nation, and the world, fights an unprecedented war against COVID-19, one of the most critical ways to win is to change our behaviors. With social distancing and next-level hygiene rituals helping prevent the spread, we are already seeing a shift in the way consumers purchase.

I couldn’t help but notice as I walked down the cleaning supply aisle of my grocery store to see that the shelves have been wiped clear of Lysol and Clorox. Left in abundance were the all-natural products that just a few weeks ago, stood out to consumers as keeping their home safe of harsh chemicals. Additionally, for the first time on Royal Caribbean, a friends and family sale banner let consumers purchase staterooms for as low as $199.

Now, we are faced with a very real threat and consumer behavior is being primarily driven by safety. No longer are customers taking into consideration anything but a primal need for survival. We have seen this happen before in preparation for hurricanes for example, but this is to another scale and it is shaping behavior across the globe, entirely.

Aside from products, we are also seeing a shift in services and a great demand for online delivery than ever before. One industry hit especially hard are restaurants, having to change the way they run their business to adapt to the changing behavior of the consumer. This is new territory for everyone and businesses that can think of innovative solutions to meet the needs of customers can make it out okay. A local Miami restaurant, Eating House, was one of the best examples I’ve seen. Taking to Instagram, @eating_house showed images of employees cleaning the establishment, wearing gloves, and preparing food. They went a step further and adapted their distribution strategy to include grab-and-go meal kit options for home preparation.

Everyone is on high alert and neuroscience shows us that it actually changes the way we think and act. What is unique about this current crisis is that it isn’t a single instance of crisis mode, such as a car accident, it is prolonged exposure to a high-stress event that might possibly change the way we are wired to make decisions. We don’t know what the future holds, but we might be able to gain some insight by studying our past. Perhaps looking at trends of consumerism post the great depression, WWII, and even 9/11.

While our hope is that we will eventually get back to ‘normal’ and hopefully bounce back, I can’t help but wonder if this war will change the way we are as consumers moving forward.

Will consumers place more value on necessities or maybe more value on products and services that fuel desire? What types of distribution services will consumers look for? Will bulk buying become standard practice?

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