McKinsey and Company says e-grocery shopping, virtual healthcare visits, and home nesting are likely to endure beyond the COVID disruption. But they argue that remote learning, leisure air travel, and  live entertainment would likely revert closer to pre-pandemic patterns

The results of the study are found in a new online paper called “The consumer demand recovery and lasting effects of COVID-19”.

The management consultants studied six consumption shifts that cover a broad range of consumer life and are drawn from sectors that cover almost three-quarters of consumer spending.

According to the authors of the paper, Jaana Remes, James Manyika, Sven Smit, Sajal Kohli, Victor Fabius, Sundiatu Dixon-Fyle, and Anton Nakaliuzhnyi, “Two consistent patterns stood out across our case studies. First, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital adoption, especially in grocery shopping and healthcare, and this is expected to continue. Second, the pandemic and lockdowns reversed the long-standing trend of declining money and time spent at home, leading to ‘home nesting.’”

The authors say they expect this behavior to stick as some portion of high-income households will prefer to work from home to some degree after the pandemic while low-income households retain low-cost at-home alternatives such as digital entertainment.

“At the same time, we expect many other behaviors that the pandemic interrupted—leisure air travel, in-person education, and in-person dining—to resume with the recovery, although potentially with modifications from the experience of the pandemic.”

Stickiness relies upon adequate infrastructure, which they define as basic physical and organizational structures and facilities, such as buildings, roads, and power supplies, needed for the operation of an enterprise or society.

The adequacy of that infrastructure affects consumer, industry, and government response in determining the stickiness of behaviors.

The highlight three issues;

  • For consumers, reliable internet access played a role in determining whether consumers had a good or bad experience with remote learning and ultimately whether they are willing to try it again.
  • For industry, it could apply to supply chains and the network of third party relationships. For example, in e-grocery, those companies with established delivery capabilities and relationships were able to respond to the new environment quickly and effectively, determining the choices consumers had.
  • For government, infrastructure policy can enable and support consumption. For example, comprehensive digital infrastructure is key for access to virtual healthcare.

The study did not examine issues such as sustainability or the increased focus on health.

“We think tracking the stickiness factors—consumer behavior as well as company offerings and government role—could help predict the nature of long-term behavioral changes we should expect. On both accounts, however, the likelihood of consumers actually supporting these choices will critically depend on the product choices and pricing that companies offer, as well as the regulatory incentives for both companies and individuals to shift toward more sustainable or healthy goods, services, and behaviors.”

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