The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way people live, work and socialize, accelerating demand for innovation, as retailers, consumer goods, and travel companies shift from reacting to the crisis to reinventing products and services, according to findings of a new global survey from Accenture.
After a year of lockdowns, 98% of survey respondents in India said they made at least one change to their lifestyle that they expect will be permanent. Working from home, changing travel patterns, and a growing desire to shop locally are challenging industries to fundamentally rethink how they cater to the pandemic-adapted consumer. The latest survey of more than 9,650 people in 19 countries including more than 500 people in India, supports Accenture’s previous findings that many changes in behaviour will likely be long-term.
“The past year has been a tough one for consumers and consumer-facing industries. Evolving consumer preferences and behaviours have led to huge demand fluctuation, making it imperative for consumer goods and retail companies to stay agile and resilient. As companies shift from reaction to reinvention, they need to harness digital’s full potential across the value chain at speed and scale,” said Anurag Gupta, managing director and lead – Strategy & Consulting, Accenture in India.
Covid-19 has led to compressed transformation, with companies simultaneously transforming multiple parts of the enterprise and reskilling people in what previously would have been longer-term step-by-step programs. Many consumer-facing companies have re-platformed their businesses in the cloud, addressed cost pressures, and continued to build resilience and security, putting the infrastructure in place to enable innovation and position them for future success.
Manish Gupta, managing director and lead for Products practice, Accenture in India said, “To succeed in a post-pandemic economy, companies need to digitally reinvent themselves and strategically invest in technology, people and supply chains. Adoption of digital technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence, advanced analytics, combined with a well-defined purpose, can help companies to not only reach out to consumers in innovative ways but also adapt faster to the evolving market demands.”
Dawn of the “third space”
The pandemic forced a rapid shift to employees working from home, with many expressing that they want flexibility in how and where they work moving forward. More than 87% of respondents in India said they would like to occasionally work from a “third space” — a location other than their home or place of employment. This highlights a potential opportunity to grow revenue for the hospitality and retail industries.
The desire to work from a “third space” is accompanied by a shift in attitudes towards business travel. Nearly 57% of respondents in India said they have no business travel plans post-pandemic, or they intend to cut previous business travel by half. How long this view will hold firm remains to be seen, but the current outlook indicates that the return to travel will resume principally within the leisure market, pushing the industry to adapt and become even more efficient to make up for lost income.
Shifts in consumer habits here to stay
Not only do people think some of their work habits and travel plans have likely permanently changed, many also think their shopping habits have evolved for the long haul. The latest research supports Accenture’s previously released findings that the dramatic rise in e-commerce is likely to remain or accelerate further. For instance, the proportion of online purchases for products such as food, home décor, fashion, and luxury goods by previously infrequent e-commerce users — defined as those who used online channels for less than 25% of purchases prior to the outbreak — has increased 667% since the outbreak in India.
Accenture’s COVID-19 Consumer Research is tracking the changing attitudes, behaviors, and habits of consumers worldwide as they adapt to a new reality during the COVID-19 outbreak. The latest waves of this survey were conducted November 28 — December 10 2020 and 25 February – March 5 12,487 and 9,653 consumers respectively, in 19 countries across five continents: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UAE, UK, USA.