October 30, 2020

Covid-19 reroutes consumer retail habits

It is clear that Covid-19 has had far reaching consequences in countless ways. Here Ruairidh Roberts, Waze UK Country Manager, takes an in-depth look at how the pandemic has affected the high street and consumer behaviour.

After years of uncertainty around Brexit, increased business rates and ever-changing consumer behaviour, the high street had seen drastic challenges and then 2020 happened. 

Many aspects of our lives have been disrupted by the current pandemic and we have had to make drastic changes to our routines. 

Naturally, consumer behaviour and priorities have shifted, and we know from looking at our own data that it will continue to have far reaching effects. As retailers are looking for routes of survival, let’s explore some trends that matter. 

Cherish vs. chore

For some time now, the retail industry has seen a rise in shoppers making purchases based on brand loyalty – even if that meant paying a little bit extra for the product. The idea of cherish vs. chore purchasing developed – a divide where consumers make purchases based on either brand loyalty or immediate convenience.

In light of Covid-19, we’ve seen a shift towards shopping only for essentials, leaving previously much-loved brands struggling. Consumers are also more mindful about their spending and opting for less expensive items. Moreover, they are actively seeking options based on proximity, meaning that they are often making purchases from stores that they wouldn’t normally visit outside of pandemic pressures. 

In addition to internal challenges faced by businesses (including brick-and-mortar store closures, staff reductions and less passing trade), the small business economy is struggling. We might not know the intensity or the details of all of the changes we’re seeing, but what we do know is that there is a good chance that people will continue to change what and how they purchase. 

Traffic trends are changing too

Throughout the pandemic, our data shows that daily traffic levels are fluctuating. From 23rd March when England went into lockdown, average daily kilometres driven on Waze dropped as low as -70% compared to the daily average kilometres driven in February. We have now returned to 80% of our typical levels since the UK’s lockdown began, showing that consumers are beginning to venture back out.

Consumers have also redefined their day-to-day routes to retail outlets in an attempt to make their trips as short as possible. Personal usage of cars has increased, and location and proximity to home is now the number one priority for consumers when choosing a shopping destination.

That being said, it’s important to caveat these trends are always evolving. With each new announcement, car usage is alternating above and below pre-Covid levels. For example, we saw traffic levels spike to +2% of the pre-Covid levels on the 17th of July in Bristol. However, just two days later it was back down to -31%. On the whole, current traffic levels in the UK peak each weekend and then dip on weekdays. This presents opportunities for local businesses to switch up their marketing strategies and target drivers and road users. 

Destination-based marketing

At Waze, we’re in a unique position – we were one of the first brands to pioneer destination marketing – targeting consumers on their travels – because our app is used by drivers to find the best way of getting from A to B. When consumers are looking for an outlet to purchase food and groceries, Waze is able to utilise its destination-based marketing to turn business locations into destinations.

Our recent campaign with Jamie Oliver deli by Shell is a perfect example of this. The partnership leverages Waze to promote spontaneous reroutes to nearby petrol stations for food stops. It helps to raise awareness and support consumers convenience-based shopping needs. By targeting destinations as opposed to locations, Waze identifies the ideal opportunity to speak to on-the-go consumers with calls to action through turn-by-turn navigations. Our new Location Personalities badges help to support this, too. Businesses can communicate with consumers about its most up-to-date offerings such as curbside pickup, drive-thru and click-and-collect services. 

Our lives have been rerouted and businesses are continually trying to find new ways to navigate the disruption. With rules changing on a regular basis and consumers prioritising convenience, there are a number of opportunities for brands to use destination platforms to help customers. 

Local businesses are some of the few that have benefited from the lockdown, with the desire for convenience over loyalty. Over the next few months, retailers need to reach audiences as they are making their journeys, at the right time and in the right location.