Research Reveals Post-Pandemic Consumers Want Businesses to Look Forward, Not Back

From social distancing to digital growth, the pandemic has changed the global consumer landscape dramatically. And according to a 2021 consumer trends report from Qualtrics XM Institute, as businesses look to navigate the way forward, getting an understanding of consumer expectations and behavior and how they could change is critical.

In the company’s study of nearly 18,000 consumers across the globe, more than 75 percent of consumers took a new interest in online activities in 2020, transforming in-person touch points into digital ones. Moreover, the authors of the report said to “expect the global democratization of global experiences to continue.”

Survey results suggest the world will not return to exactly how it was prior to the pandemic as consumer behavior has shifted. As businesses wait to find out which consumer behaviors will return, amid vaccinations and removal of restrictions, or whether the last year has permanently changed how consumers interact with brands, authors of Qualtrics’ research said businesses are likely to see variations across industries and regions.

Overall, the research found a strong connection between good experience and loyalty. In the U.S. specifically, Qualtrics’ survey found online retailers have the highest satisfaction across all industries at 89 percent, with online retailers being the most likely to be recommended at 79 percent and being the most trusted at 81 percent. Other organizations considered included department stores, supermarkets, fast food restaurants, banks, credit card providers, government agencies and health insurers.

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While the overall convenience of online shopping means it’s here to stay, Qualtrics’ survey found emotional and transactional needs will likely dictate consumer behavior post-pandemic.

“Across our research, we saw an interesting split,” said report’s authors. “Though more transactional activities are likely to continue trending online, more emotional activities where people find a sense of belonging and community are likely to revert back to in-person. While there is a lot organizations can do to create a sense of community online or to bring emotion into their digital experiences, we know it can never replace some activities and the connections you build face-to-face.”

As companies prepare for what the landscape will look like in 2021 and beyond, the report recommends that organizations design a new set of experiences that consumers want and find ways to make ongoing improvements as a means of developing the future instead of recreating the past.

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