Local shopping habits will be a major post-pandemic force

Research from Accenture also shows budget and mid-range costs preferences will be sticking around as well.

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Canadians will have lingering discomfort about public spaces for some time, ushering in a “decade of the home” that will compel retailers and CPG brands to tailor products and services to a more local experience.

That’s according to a pair of Accenture surveys, each of which polled over 8,800 consumers in 20 countries, including Canada.

Among the findings are that 54% of Canadian consumers are buying more locally sourced products, with 86% of those saying they plan to continue to do so long-term. Related to that, 54% of consumers say that the pandemic is making them shop at retailers that are closer to home, with 75% saying they plan to continue to do so long-term.

This is because 70% of Canadians expect to do most of their socializing over the next six months, either in their home, a friend’s home or virtually, while slightly more than half of us who didn’t work from home before, now plan on doing so more often.

“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,” says 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.”

This includes boosting 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, says Kelly Askew, managing director of Accenture’s strategy team.

He adds that retailers should carefully assess their physical assets – such as 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-fulfillment to support e-commerce growth. Brands might also experiment with even more temporary spaces, such as pop-ups in local communities.

Retailers should note that thanks to financial uncertainty, 44% of Canadians 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, however, 11% of Canadian consumers said they have increased premium purchases, with 28% of those falling outside the high-income bracket.

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 and increased use of related digital services like online chat and apps  are likely to remain or accelerate further. For instance, the proportion of Canadian online purchases by infrequent e-commerce users – those who used online channels for less than 25% of purchases prior to the outbreak – has increased 176% since the outbreak.

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