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Pandemic Effects: The ‘New New Normal’ Changing Consumer Behaviors

As the far-reaching effects of 2020 and 2021 continue to drive a digital-first lifestyle, they also have a far-reaching impact on the ways people work, shop, and consume content. Stay-at-home guidance has altered the digital landscape in lasting ways — including where and how consumers spend their time online. Many of the behaviors that emerged during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as increased CTV consumption, are likely here to stay. In tandem with such habit-shifts are new opportunities for advertisers and publishers to make meaningful connections with people. The recently released Pandemic Effects study provides helpful insights into both the already changed consumption behaviors and expected adjustments as we (hopefully) prepare to enter the ‘New New Normal’ of a post-pandemic world.

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The latest research shows that while consumers plan to maintain some new habits picked up during quarantine, they also anticipate returning to other pre-pandemic activities, especially when it comes to the experience of physical shopping. Ultimately, four categories emerged from the research, each one illustrating where consumers plan to  spend their time and money in the months ahead.

Convenience-Based Habits Are Likely Here To Stay

Accompanying a generally increased focus on personal health and safety, online Americans report that they adopted several new behaviors over the last 18 months. Many shifted to more online shopping (59%), more dining and cooking at home (53%), and using delivery and pick-up services (46%). Interestingly, the vast majority (83%) will continue at least one of these activities once restrictions are lifted.

Additionally, consumers will continue an increased propensity for online research of products and services before committing to a purchase, presenting an opportunity for marketers to connect with their respective audiences in the places where they are spending both their time and money. In fact, almost nine-in-ten consumers (89%) expect their spending to increase or remain the same in the next year.

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People Are Primed For Social Interactions 

At the time of survey, the majority of consumers (78%) report feeling comfortable engaging in social activities, despite the mixed messages of updated COVID protocols. Consumers have missed restaurants and dining out and are eager to start booking reservations again (65%). According to the data, people are also excited to take vacations and see friends in-person (61%). In-person movies are also anticipated to make a comeback later this year, with 43% of consumers reporting that they miss the experience of going to a movie theater and look forward to returning.

Small/Local Businesses Gain Support

Many Americans plan to shop at local and small businesses that may have struggled during the pandemic (75%). In fact, just over half (51%) of people will choose to split their time between online channels and physical stores. This means retail brands need to align their online and offline strategies. Physical interaction with product variety and availability is something many consumers have missed. Meanwhile, targeted discounts and promotions could drive in-store shopping in the coming months.

Digital is Key for Connecting in a Post-Pandemic World

For digital advertisers, a continued focus on buying quality ad impressions in relevant environments will be key, with 57% of U.S. consumers saying they prefer to see advertising on safe, reputable sites or alongside relevant content. A focus on contextually targeted quality advertising can help drive those important purchasing decisions. Brands can adapt to the changed consumer preferences by mapping their media plans to new and emerging media consumption habits. Over one-third (36%) said that they find online advertising very important or important in finding information about available products and services in a post-pandemic world.

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Marketers need to ensure that their brands show-up in contexts that both align with their brands values and drive campaign outcomes across digital media channels. Tools that optimize contextual targeting and avoidance can be especially powerful to help marketers best connect with consumers in the places where they are spending their time both now and as they prepare for the impending ‘New New Normal’.

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