On Friday, May 5, 2023, the World Health Organization declared an end to the COVID-19 emergency. While it will keep its status as a pandemic, this new declaration is a long-awaited milestone. The COVID-19 pandemic is the first of its scale to have affected and influenced consumer behavior across the globe at a time when news, social media, and misinformation traveled at lightning speed. It will continue to be one of the biggest cultural phenomena for generations to come. A member of Forrester’s ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community told us, “Our experience with [COVID] will affect future generations. It was two years of making changes in how we work, how we educate, how we socialize, [and] how we deal with and distribute healthcare … ”

Three pandemic behaviors will stick with consumers:

  1. Everything is now hybrid. The norm for consumers now is balancing connecting in person with connecting online. Consumers are increasing use of videoconferencing, not only in their professional but their personal lives. Forrester’s Consumer Benchmark Survey data found that only 23% of US online adults talked to someone using video chat on their smartphones weekly in 2019, versus 54% in 2022. The great “work from home” experiment upended much of the 9-to-5 routine. Brands must see where best to take action: For instance, virtual experiences should boost efficiency for in-person experiences to maximize their meaning.
  2. Networks have shrunk. The shutdown of the world, lessened in-person interaction, and increased usage of social media have caused consumers’ personal networks to shrink by almost 17% in the midst of the pandemic. While the world has generally opened back up, the hybrid nature of our future means that making connections will look different in the future, and brands can help by creating and finding new ways for consumers to make social connections.
  3. Impulsive purchasing behavior has increased. COVID-19 has enhanced consumers’ impulse-buying behavior. Research shows that the loss of control and fear due to the pandemic has caused people to find comfort elsewhere, which has resulted in more impulsive shopping behavior. Furthermore, social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok have made it easier to shop where consumers spend their time, even when they’re not in a shopping mindset. And guess what? Two out of three consumers said that they regretted those purchases.

Want to learn more? Come watch my talk, “Culture Shapes Consumers: 5 Forces CMOs Should Track,” at CX North America in Nashville and online from June 13–15, or schedule an inquiry or guidance session with me.