Consumer Behaviour Covid in 2020 is a complicated story. Our collective distraction from taking early action at containing the Covid 19 outbreak could be seen as a significant mistake. Pause to consider though, that only a very select few countries outside of China and Taiwan reacted more decisively than Australia.
So why did China and Taiwan do so well? The government and people had a lived experience of SARS in 2003. The information flow about Covid 19 from China to Taiwan would have been quicker and much more comprehensive. Both countries speak Mandarin so medical and scientific data exchanges were most likely much more effective.
By 5 January 2020, authorities began monitoring all individuals who had travelled to Wuhan within fourteen days and exhibited a fever or symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. On 26 January, Taiwan suspended all air travel to and from China and put in place quarantine measures for passengers who flew from China. International cruise ships were banned from Taiwan ports on 6 February.
Both counties have a culture of wearing masks. Both governments responded with great urgency. Lockdowns in China were very strict. With the help of the Taiwanese military, surgical mask production has risen to about 17 million masks per day.
Australia has also performed very well. We were slower to react but once international arrivals were quarantined for 14 days in hotels, the numbers dropped from hundreds of cases in March to 10-20 cases per day currently. It is safe to say that our first wave has been contained quite well.
Compared to the UK, Italy, Spain, USA and Sweden, our response from consumers and authorities stand out. Partisan politics were put to one side and state vs federal co-operation brought us to where we are. Australians complied with lockdown instructions and many changed their behaviour quite significantly.
The Role of The Media
The media landscape is today completely dominated by the Covid 19 pandemic. Media outlets like the ABC Coronacast and Sky News COVID-19 are dedicated to one topic only. Social media amplified consumer anxiety about health and the economic outlook taking us all into uncharted waters.
We know that consumers hoard certain products when they face great uncertainty. The run on toilet paper and hand sanitiser was followed by hoarding chicken, beef, pasta, flour, rice and more. Once the perception changed that the local outbreak was under control, consumers returned to normal grocery buying patterns.
Panic buying of grocery products took a couple of months to abate. Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and IGA experienced Xmas buying conditions every day. Talk about being in retail heaven. During this time the demand for an online grocery service took off. Online service became unavailable as retailers struggled to adjust to this consumer behaviour. Remote communities felt the food/grocery shortages even more acutely.
The Bounce Back – Consumer Behaviour Covid in 2020
It is true to say that the Australian economy and consumers roared back into positive action in the second part of 2020. We went from hesitant and very careful in April to a huge spending spree in the final quarter of the year. Real Estate prices soared. Demand for goods and services were back or better than in 2019. Pent up demand, consumers with significant cash saved and record iron ore prices, helped our economy enormously. Home services like carpet cleaning and plumbers ended up having strong results despite all the events in 2020.
Hidden from all the positive sentiment was the impact on many small businesses that lost most of their normal income during 2020. Retail, tourism, travel and hospitality are still struggling. We believe this will continue well into 2021.
Consumers will adhere to new regulations better if given good and accurate information. Historic experiences influence behaviour and compliance. Uniform cultures will behave more predictably.
Consumers will change their behaviour when given consistent information. Education of the dangers of the virus has become second nature. Government and scientists were largely unified and repetitive with their messaging.
Many consumers will become much less price sensitive if they feel that a sought-after product is scarce. The desire to obtain something like toilet paper was stronger than the inflated prices charged online.
If consumers feel sufficiently threatened, they will react very quickly with modified behaviour. The same applies to the feeling of security. Normal to panic buying, back to normal. Instore to online, back to instore.