Consumers are optimistic about when social distancing will end and 50% believe their purchase patterns will change

As rapidly as the world plunged into uncertainty as a result of the corona pandemic, now restrictions are being lifted with increasing speed in European societies. This the result of effective measures, successful vaccination programs and likely changing weather conditions. It finally seems like there is light at the end of the COVID-tunnel. But what really is consumers’ perspective on the further course of the global pandemic? How long do they estimate we will need to adhere to social distancing and mask-wearing measures? Both aspects undoubtedly affect the way consumers shop and what they consume. The global pandemic also saw e-commerce purchases soar to unprecedented heights. Do consumers intend to upkeep their new online shopping habits? Do differences in these attitudes exist when we take consumer characteristics like gender and age into account? Keep reading for answers to these and more questions about online shopping in the post-corona world.

Dutch, German and Norwegian consumers become more optimistic about when ‘social distancing’ will end

During the past three months we have tracked consumers’ expectations with regards to when they think the pandemic will be over and not having to worry about social distancing anymore. Overall, we see that Dutch, German and Norwegian consumers slowly but surely are more optimistic.

Dutch consumers are most positive: 58% of consumers think the pandemic will be over within the coming twelve months. The corresponding share among Norwegian and German consumers is 53% and 48% respectively. This attitude is significantly correlated to age and gender. For males we see an extreme for the age group 18-34, where the share who believe the pandemic will be over within the coming twelve months is 70%. For females we see an extreme in the age group 45 and older, where 38% believe the effects of the pandemic will have faded within the coming twelve months.

We also see that consumers are less worried about their health. Six months ago, 51% of Dutch consumers expressed worries about their personal health and this share has decreased to 40% in May. During the same period, consumers worried about their health in Germany decreases from 54% to 43% and in Norway from 38% to 32%.

50% of consumers believe their purchase patterns will change

The majority of consumers interviewed in our research state they will continue to buy both online and in physical stores at the same level after the pandemic as they do today. And 10-16% of consumers say they will buy less online and more in physical stores, while 5-6% say they will buy less in physical stores and more online. Should consumers act on their intentions, we can expect a shift from online to offline purchases as the pandemic recedes further and further.

When it comes to differences between countries, Dutch consumers intend to increase purchases in physical stores more than Germans and Norwegians. The intention to change behavior as the as the impact of the pandemic shifts more and more into the background also differs between age groups. Younger consumers are more positive towards increasing both online purchases and purchases in physical stores, while older consumers, many of them having started shopping online due to bare necessity, state they intend to decrease online purchases.

Consumers most look forward to social activities and traveling, least to physically going back to school/office

As might be expected, the activities that consumers look forward to the most when the impact of the pandemic becomes less are related to socializing and traveling- meeting and visiting family or friends and going to restaurants/cafés and visiting other countries. Second, consumers want to fulfil more individual needs, including visiting museums/concerts, going shopping in physical stores and going to the gym/play sports. Going back to the ‘normal’ office/back to school is what consumers look forward to least.

From this perspective, there are some interesting differences between Dutch, German and Norwegian consumers. Dutch consumers state they mostly miss going to restaurants and cafés, while German consumers look forward to meeting and visiting family and friends most. Norwegian consumers state that they look forward most to traveling and going on holiday to another country.

Here we see that priorities differ between age groups. Older consumers have a significantly higher need to socialize, whereas younger consumers more clearly express their individual needs in terms of going to events and venues. But when it comes to travelling and going shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, there are no significant differences between age groups: these activities are equally important for all consumers. We can thus expect online purchases in Transport/Tickets and Travel to further increase as the impact of the pandemic recedes – as we have already predicted in our outlook for e-commerce in June.

What is next?

Coming soon is an analysis of consumers' visions on the future of e-commerce. Stay tuned!