The Covid pandemic changed our lives in more than a few ways. One crucial change had a great effect on our buying behaviour especially at the onset of the pandemic. However, the pandemic’s long-term impact on consumer behaviour remains largely elusive.
As things stand at the moment, a definitive end to the pandemic is highly unlikely. It’s unlikely at least, as far as the foreseeable future is concerned. But every passing month, we get to know a little better how this global experience affects or changes our daily lives. Remote work is among the best examples.
Almost two years into the pandemic, news headlines are still replete with delayed return-to-office announcements and new hybrid work commitments. Some companies aren’t asking employees to return at all. They’ve found remarkable win-win model work from home models owing to the pandemic’s iron grip.
In a comparatively short period, the physical location where hundreds of millions of people around the world spend most of their waking hours changed dramatically. And just as the early days of the pandemic proved our buying behaviour is a product of our environment, we are interested in finding out how the shift to remote work might influence what we buy in the long term.
To explore this relationship, a team of researchers from Deloitte tapped into their Global State of the Consumer Tracker, collating data on people’s remote-work behavior and spending intentions across more than a dozen product categories and 23 countries.
In a nutshell, the research findings reveal that all age groups prefer more flexibility, that the preference for working from home isn’t any longer driven by safety concerns over Covid-19 and that people are prioritising work-life balance.
How Remote Work is Influencing Consumer Spending
Remote work is likely to hang around. This renders its potential impact on our spending behavior all the more significant. Deloitte’s survey findings in the USA reveal the following statistically significant relationships:
As days spent working from the home increase, the amount people plan to set aside for monthly groceries rises - and they plan to spend less on restaurants. This is redolent of the pandemic’s early days. Thus, the WFH model continues to be bullish for grocery retailers and bearish for restaurants.
Spending more on the home
People who work from home a lot also plan to spend significantly more on housing every month - this includes rent and mortgage, but also categories such as maintenance, utilities, repairs & renovations.
Lower demand for new clothes
Whereas overall US apparel sales are quite strong, monthly spending intentions for clothing plummets as people spend more time working from home. After all, how many pyjama pants can one need?
Evolving transportation behaviour
People who work from home a lot are less likely to use public transportation, which is unsurprising. Yet remote workers also run the same daily miles on their vehicles as everyone else. And that trend runs counter to what most might expect. On top of that, remote workers are less likely to be shopping for a vehicle. This could be tied to things such as reliability. People who depend on their vehicles to get to work likely want newer cars they can rely on.
Buying in-store or online is independent of where people work from
The number of days people work from home bears little correlation with their intentions to buy online or offline. That’s somewhat surprising. The researchers had thought that more days spent at home would accelerate all things digital including online shopping. But it’s not showing up in the data.
Remote workers are less likely to plan vacations
The industry narrative is that remote work flexibility will help fuel travel demand. But that’s not showing up in the US data, either. However, some of their recent research findings suggest that workplace flexibility extends trip lengths by three days.
Assuming that the scenario in the US extends itself right across the globe, these research-backed findings have important implications for eCommerce operators concerning sales of which items will pick up and dip and what kind of new eCommerce business areas are most promising. This is a limited study, so it’s by no means comprehensive. But without dispute, its findings offer valuable insights and clues for both existing and prospective eCommerce operators.
The world is keen to understand what pandemic-driven changes, especially behavioral changes, might become permanent. As the months' pass, it’s growing more and more likely that a redefinition of the employer-employee relationship will be one of those enduring changes. We must continue to watch this trend closely as well as the challenges and opportunities it presents to eCommerce businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Successful businesses will likely be those with the agility to keep pace with these shifting work preferences. These shifts in the consumer behavior can present them with strategic opportunities to adjust product portfolio mixes and routes-to-market, tweak operating models, and rethink profit contributions.