New research highlights how retail and consumer goods companies must adjust their product and service portfolios to meet consumers locally

As consumers refocus on their local community in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the change in attitudes will be long-term, bringing about the “decade of the home” according to new research by Accenture. This trend will force retailers and consumer goods companies to tailor their products and services to drive a more local experience, the findings of the recent global survey reveals.

The continuing discomfort with public spaces and travel, coupled with growing financial fears amid widespread decline in household income, will continue to keep people mostly at home, according to the survey of more than 8,800 people in 20 countries. Findings of the survey are presented in two Accenture reports, one for the consumer goods industry and one for the retail industry.

Among the key findings:
• 70 percent of Canadian respondents expect to do most of their socializing over the next six months either in their home, a friend’s home or virtually;
• 52 percent of Canadians who never worked from home previously now plan to work from home more often in the future;
• 54 percent of Canadian consumers said that the pandemic has caused them to shop in closer neighborhood stores, with three-quarters of those respondents (75 percent) saying they plan to continue to do so long-term;
• 54 percent of Canadian consumers said they’re buying more locally sourced products, with 86 percent of those saying they plan to continue to do so long-term;
• Half of Canadian respondents (51 percent) cited financial security as one of their top three concerns over the next six months; and
• 44 percent of Canadians said they are shopping more cost-consciously and are likely to continue doing so — with consumers overall far more likely to have increased purchases of mid-range and budget brands and reduced purchases of premium brands since the pandemic began.

At the same time, 11 percent of Canadian consumers said they have increased premium purchases, with 28 percent of those falling outside the high-income bracket.

“Home is now the new frontier — it’s become the workplace, the schoolroom, the place to try new hobbies, the place to socialize and a safe sanctuary — so companies must account for this reality,” said Robin Sahota, a managing director at Accenture who leads its Retail practice in Canada. “Companies in all industries will need to think beyond traditional tactics and be more creative, providing premium or virtual experiences and tailoring their portfolios to engage consumers.”

The report notes that some brands are reaping the rewards of adjusting their services to meet the shift in consumer demands. Yet it cautions that taking advantage of these opportunities will require ongoing and careful analysis to anticipate which of these new consumer behaviours will stick and then adapting their portfolios and financial models accordingly.

“Companies must boost their analytics capabilities to understand the pandemic’s impact on their businesses at a local level — tracking its effect on local businesses and employment and people’s level of comfort in returning to pre-COVID activities,” said Kelly Askew, a managing director with Accenture Strategy. “In addition to making consumers comfortable re-engaging outside the home through strict health and safety measures, retailers should carefully assess their physical assets — i.e., which stores to keep open and what inventory to stock, taking into account, for example, if they should leverage some of their store footprint for micro-fulfilment to support e-commerce growth. They might also experiment with temporary spaces, such as pop-ups in local communities.”

The latest research supports Accenture’s previous findings that the changes in consumer behaviour, such as the dramatic rise in e-commerce since the start of the pandemic, are likely to remain or accelerate further. For instance, the proportion of online purchases by infrequent e-commerce users in Canada — i.e., those who used online channels for less than 25 percent of purchases prior to the outbreak — has increased 176 percent since the outbreak.

Further, the survey found that consumers who have increased usage of digitally enabled services (e.g., contactless payment, in-app ordering and curbside pickup) and have turned to digital customer service channels (e.g., website or mobile app, mobile messaging with virtual agent, or online chat with a chatbot) expect to sustain an increased level of usage.

Accenture’s COVID-19 Consumer Research is monitoring the changing attitudes, behaviours 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 June 2-8 and June 16-22 with 8,839 and 8,852 consumers respectively in 20 countries across five continents: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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