Consumer trends are always in flux, but the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down. Shopper habits have changed, and Coca-Cola has identified several trends that will likely stick around post pandemic.
NATSO saw down with Stephanie McMahan, senior manager shopper insights—convenience retail at Coca-Cola, and Don Densmore, account executive II, to learn more about current trends and what they will mean for the truckstop and travel center industry.
Focus on Health Accelerates
Having a clean store has always been important to shoppers, but post-COVID, it is more important than ever. While extreme hygienic efforts won’t last, changes in health awareness, self-care and personal hygiene will continue, McMahan said. Densmore said there may be opportunities to sell items outside of beverages, such as wipes and gel. “As you focus on health, there is that enhanced desire for products around hygiene,” he said.
At Home Moments Increase
Social distancing and safer-at-home initiatives have kept people home, so more beverage occasions are shifting to home, McMahan said. “We’re not going to be at sporting events or concerts, but we’re going to be at home, and you want to make it special so you’re going to lean in on food and beverage,” McMahan said, adding that she expects food and beverage’s role at home to increase as we head into winter.
With more consumers staying home, the number of beverages being sold for immediate consumption has dropped. “If you’re not on the road, you don’t have that need and immediate consumption drops,” McMahan said, adding that retailers need to think about how they can sell something shoppers can take home. “Trip consolidation was always a thing, but it is elevated. People are saying, ‘I’m already out, so I’m going to pick up what I think I might need.’”
Densmore noted that there has been a large increase in single- serve and case-pack water.
Comfort and Indulgence Takes Center Stage
Disrupted daily lives and yearning for comfort make people more likely to accept and crave indulgence. “As we start getting into cold weather and shorter days, people will be desperate for cheer. We’re going to have to be creative in helping people get through it,” McMahan said.
Digital Commerce Accelerates
Lockdowns have accelerated customers’ use of digital commerce, and people are forming new habits. McMahan said retailers were already engaging more
with customers online, but COVID-19 has pushed that. Digital commerce and online shopping is expected to increase, and even when customers go to a bricks-and-mortar locations, they expect digital options to make it easier for them.
Recession and unemployment creates increased economic pressure, and today’s shoppers want more value. That includes more value for their time and more value for their money. COVID has driven this
further. “Consumers are wanting renewed value because they’re concerned about future employment,” McMahan said.
McMahan said concern over the economy has remained high. She added that economists admit the country is in the early stages of recovery and they believe it will take years before we’re back to a pre-COVID level. That could mean the emphasis on value remains high.
The Truck Stops Here Podcast
NATSO was lucky to have McMahan and Densmore on NATSO’s podcast The Truckstop Stops Here as well. Listen to the 20-minute podcast below.
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