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The secret language of consumer behavior.

Like Newton has taught us, action has a reaction. Some reactions can be foreseen, and others might have a completely different result than expected. Whatever way we turn, there always is a reason why people buy certain items. People might require certain items because of evolving trends like digitalization or climate control. I always find it interesting to put events in order and to analyze how world happenings affect the consumers' behavior. Let’s jump into this secret language together using one of the hottest topics of the past 2 years.




The world was hit with a massive gamechanger, also known as Covid-19, and multiple industries have struggled to keep their heads up. And why? Because people stopped buying stuff which resulted in less revenue which resulted in stores and companies going bust. You can already see that buying behavior is a necessity to stay alive, sounds logical right? Money makes the world turn after all.

In the Netherlands, and in other countries too, it all started in March 2020. Stores had to close abruptly; people canceled their holidays leaving hotels empty. People simply stopped behaving the ‘regular’ way. This meant a massive change in a continuous behavioral pattern. Just imagine you drink at least 3 to 4 cups of coffee a day and all of a sudden you decide to bring that down to zero. Your body will not like it in the beginning. It is an adjustment to your old habit and your body needs to learn. And as with the coffee example, the retail industry needed to get ready for a new buying habit. Using figures provided by CBS (Centraal Bureau Statistieken) we have analyzed the spending behavior of consumers during Covid-19.

In the second and third quarters of 2020, the retail branch showed immense growth in eCom (55% in the second quarter and 40% in the third compared to the year before). As soon as stores opened again, people kept on spending money within the retail branch. Maybe a little case of “you never know what you had until it is gone?” Because numbers show that in the third quarter all the sectors in the retail branch, a whopping 9,2% growth was reached in total. However, the clothing and shoe sector decreased by 3,4% and 4,9%. So, where did this growth take place? Well, believe it or not, but the DIY stores and supermarkets booked the biggest growth throughout the retail. The world has gained some Bob the Builders or maybe the home-chef hobby took a little culinary turn during the lockdown.

Let’s stop here for a moment and analyze what we just read. Which conclusion could you make from this information? Well, mainly that even when the stores opened again, buying behavior in some sectors stayed behind. Could it be that people were still too scared to go into crowded stores? Or did people just get used to not needlessly spending money on clothes and shoes and find more happiness in hosting dinner for friends again who you might not have seen for a while due to social distancing?

Moving into 2021, the year started with yet another lockdown. A severe one that struck the retail again big time. Shops needed to stay closed, and bars and restaurants were empty for a few months. Clothing stores had to almost fully rely on eCom sales because only via click and collect would people come to the store. So you will not be surprised when online sales grew by 104% when compared with 2020 in total. And, to make things even more interesting, physical stores with a webshop grew 162%. Hmm, so are people missing their favorite stores after all, or are they just supporting the locals?

Lockdown was lifted at the end of April. Would the same trend as the year before reoccur for the clothing stores? Or would people be more open to moving back to old buying patterns? Well, non-food stores saw a growth of 8% in the second quarter of 2021, and clothing stores, in particular, had a 40% increase in the third quarter of 2021. Interestingly, web store sales grew less steady than the months before and this has been a steady line going up and up and up for ages.

Let’s summarize what we just read and put it all together. What can we learn from consumer behavior in this flow? When the world stopped turning because of Covid-19 in the first year, you can see that people were more careful in what they did. They didn’t go to crowded places even when it was allowed again during the summer. You could conclude that this is because of the uncertainty of the pandemic, how bad it is, and how long you would suffer the consequences if you got ill. This summer, the vaccine is introduced, and people seem to feel way safer to slowly but surely return to the old way of life. This seems to have resulted in people heading out more and ‘make the most' of the feeling of freedom.

What will the future bring? Will this pandemic have awoken offline shopping again? I personally think online shopping will remain the biggest winner. Stores have invested time over the lockdown to up their online game. Better online visibility, better webshop styling, etc. I do however find it interesting to see how people react when you are ‘take something away’ from them like closing down stores and bars. Hitting the town for a day has almost become a miniature holiday. One thing we can say with certainty, consumer behavior is extremely important to analyze occasionally to make sure you are making the right choices for your stores. The consumer is the heartbeat of your value chain and by understanding their moves and thoughts, you can be extremely successful.

Consumer behavior is dynamic and is changing daily. To keep up with this change and development, it takes a lot of analytical work to make the right decisions for the right product, at the right place, at the right time, in the right quantity. The manual effort for the hundreds of POS and thousands of products is simply too enormous. Therefore, we have dedicated ourselves to this topic for 13 years now and analyze this data daily and generate automated decisions e.g. the optimal replenishment, the initial allocation, or the Next Best Offer. If we have now raised your curiosity, we look forward to getting to know you better in a personal meeting and showing you more.


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