The coronavirus crisis has changed consumer behavior: panic shopping, stockpiling, and e-commerce have become the norm this year, as people around the world have learned to live in isolation.
Although localization measures are weakening in many countries, uncertainty remains regarding the spread of the virus – and this may continue to shape our attitude to the products we buy, analysts found.
According to market research company Kantar, a third of global consumers are now worried that goods shipped from overseas may pose a security risk.
At the end of April, the company interviewed 45,000 people in 17 countries online and by telephone. The Covid-19 Barometer study had an error of 2%.
According to the findings of Kantar, goods from China and the United States were perceived by consumers in other countries as particularly risky, with 47% saying that they were much less likely to buy American and Chinese goods.
According to Kantar, residents of South Africa, South Korea, Nigeria and France were most afraid of buying goods imported from China and the United States.
Rosie Hawkins, Cantara’s analyst at Cantara, said CNBC people are also starting to favor local products.
“We see concerns about the second wave, and in line with this, we are seeing an increase in the number of people who say they believe that companies should enter supply chains in their country,” she told CNBC. “It is about protecting the supply chain, but also about protecting jobs and their economies. So it seems that this is due to how we can be self-sufficient as individuals, as well as countries and economies. ”
A Kantar survey found that 65% of people around the world prefer to buy goods and services from their domestic market, with every fourth brand returning production to their country.
Chinese consumers were the largest leaders in the “buy local” movement: 87% of respondents in the country said they prefer locally-made goods, while 81% of Italians and 76% in South Korea said the same thing.
Risk versus reward
According to Peter Noel Murray, a member of the American Psychological Association and the Society of Consumer Psychology from New York, consumer behavior developed during the crisis with coronavirus, as people “are now aware of the risk in everything.”
Under ordinary circumstances, according to Murray, consumer behavior is determined by the emotional end-benefit that people associate with buying a product. During the pandemic, however, another dimension appeared in this decision-making process, which included weighing the rewards for making a purchase with the risk associated with it.
“Consumers talk about products that they like, but if they find themselves in a position where, in order to get this brand, they need to expose themselves in a way that, in their opinion, has some risk associated with it, they’re not going to do it, “he said.
“It’s really all over the place, this new calculation that seems to fit, and I think the same calculation can be done with foreign products.”
He noted that the “unreasonable” perception of risk can even lead to brand followers turning their back on certain products if they have “some kind of aching feeling that there might be risk”.
“This will affect a wide range of people’s behavior, and it will accompany us for quite some time,” Murray said.
Experts are skeptical
Michael Gasiorek, professor of economics at the University of Sussex in England, told CNBC that in times of crisis, people tend to turn inward and become more nationalistic.
“There has been a lot of talk in the press about how we should be concerned about the fact that we are participating in all these international supply chains,” he said. “It is possible that people understand this and think:” Oh, dear, we must do more ourselves. “
But he added that the question of whether consumers will change their behavior is another question.
“How many consumers, when they go to the store and buy tomatoes or blueberries, really check the origin of these products?” Gasiorek asked. “It’s interesting that no matter what people say, they would rather do as much as they actually do in practice.”
Mauro Guillen, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, also expressed skepticism about any intentions that consumers should not buy in certain countries, especially in the United States.
“What people say in the polls is not at all what they do when they go to Walmart or shop online,” he said over the phone.
“It is often very difficult to find out where the product is made. But even if it’s not, American consumers care about how much money they spend. ”
However, Guillen warned that if consumers, politicians, or companies began to favor the hyperlocal approach, it would hinder economic recovery.
“That is what made the Great Depression deeper and longer — governments in Europe, in the United States, in Latin America turned inward,” he told CNBC.
Is there really a risk?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that coronaviruses, such as Covid-19, tend to spread through respiratory drops, for example when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
“Although the virus can survive for a short period of time on some surfaces, it is unlikely to spread from domestic or international mail, products or packaging,” it says. on your site,
The British government also says that there is very little risk of contamination from foreign goods.
“The risk that imported food and packaging from affected countries will be infected with coronavirus is very unlikely,” the report said. guide published at the end of April. “This is due to the fact that, in accordance with the law, the exporter must follow appropriate control measures during the packaging and shipment process to ensure that hygiene rules are observed.”