Nidhi Sinha
Nidhi leads India’s research team and specialises in analysing and providing insights to better understand the Indian marketplace and consumer behaviour.

The COVID-19 pandemic followed by complete lockdown was an unprecedented event that led to shifts in consumer behaviour, preferences and lifestyles. While some of these changes came down to consumer choice, a lot of changes were forced due to the lack of options. This resulted in consumers sharply reducing their spending across most categories and focusing on essentials. 

The scale of disruption caused by the second wave of the pandemic and lockdown is predicted to have more dramatic results, especially as the current situation is grim and consumers are experiencing more fatigue and fear compared to last year. Here we spotlight five key consumer trends observed as the second COVID-19 wave continues to evolve.

Growing affinity for the digital world

In a country dominated by Kirana stores, the first lockdown forced consumers to explore online shopping, especially grocery shopping – particularly for those in the older age groups. However, the convenience it offered, like home deliveries, attractive discounts, as well as high standards of hygiene, led to half of Indians shopping for staples and fresh produce online between December 2020 to May 2021.

With technology becoming part of life’s new normal, Mintel research highlights that more than half of Indian consumers have opted for services like online doctor consultation, fitness classes, as well as live streaming of events during the pandemic to help them cope with the restrictions. Brands like Practo, online consultation and healthcare platform, and HealthifyMe, a health and wellness platform, have been instrumental in helping people during these tough times.

Focus on total wellbeing

Despite frugal spending patterns, consumers have been particularly focused on living a healthy lifestyle. This includes their efforts to incorporate essential micronutrients like protein and fibre in their diet, consuming vitamins or supplements, as well as seeking ways to de-stress.

According to Mintel research, two in five consumers strongly agree that expenditure on healthcare would help them lead a healthy lifestyle. As the fear of the virus looms large, consumers are looking for ways to boost their immunity, as well as recover in case they get infected. Brands like Dabur and Tata Sampann which have been innovating with traditional ingredients to help boost immunity have proven to be a preferred choice among consumers.

Frugality is key

The second wave of the pandemic has impacted jobs and businesses adversely, resulting in reduced household income and increased fear of unemployment. Mintel research highlights that two in five Indians have changed their spending priorities due to reduced household income. 

According to Mintel research, over four in five consumers expect brands to offer flexible payments for groceries in the next three months. The frugality in consumer spending, which had set in during the first wave, is likely to continue with spending on essentials and healthcare ruling the household expenditure. Hence, brands need to be considerate to consumer needs.

Prioritising empathy towards community

There has been a growing concern among consumers for the local community, and consumers are looking for brands to take up the charge. The feeling of empathy has led to consumers actively seeking claims like ethical wellbeing and impact on the community.  Consumers across the country have joined hands to help those in need while trying their best to support causes that can help the local communities. This is evident from the fact that one in three consumers have chosen to buy from a local business over a large chain. 

Looking for permissible indulgences

To de-stress and relax, consumers are keen to find ways to help them break away from this gloom within the safety of their homes and at affordable prices. Online OTT platforms have witnessed a spike in the viewership of classics and comedy movies. In fact, according to Mintel research, for three in five consumers, it is important to indulge in an affordable manner to help overcome the stress of the pandemic. 

The recent launch of the Oreo Milkshake powder by Mondelez for in-home consumption is one such move in that direction, as it helps consumers lift their mood and indulge.