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Understanding COVID-19’s impact on business + imagining a post-pandemic world

Monday, June 14, 2021
Consumer Insights from the pandemic and what this means for businesses

In the last eighteen months, our daily lives adapted in ways that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

The period of self-isolation we all went through changed the way consumers now search and shop, while businesses have had to continuously adapt and innovate to survive.

While some industries saw unprecedented sales during the peak of the pandemic, many brands out there have had to face some of the toughest challenges ever in the last few months.

And while many of these changes are temporary, some of them could last in the post-pandemic world.

This year, we took a deep dive into global consumer review data on our platform to uncover some of the trends and challenges from 2020, look at some of the most impacted industries and imagine what the future could look like. In this report, we’ll explore our data and deliver some actionable tips to survive and recover from times of crisis.

1. A look back at consumer behavior in 2020: trends & challenges

We started in January 2021 and looked into consumer activity on Trustpilot.com to get a better understanding of the 2020 shift in consumer behavior. The data we analyzed showed that the Shopping & Fashion sector was the most researched industry for customer reviews, even throughout the pandemic. It’s highly possible that people started purchasing more athleisure while being stuck at home or were, perhaps, stocking up on outfits for a post-pandemic world.

The most researched businesses on Trustpilot.com in the second half of 2020

The most researched businesses on Trustpilot.com in the second half of 2020

Interestingly, some of the most reviewed industries of 2020 were B2B businesses, Shopping & Fashion, and Home & Garden. While the B2B industry comes as a bit of a surprise, it’s only natural to see that the Home & Garden industry was doing so well in 2020, as most people started investing more time and money into their daily environment during the early lockdown.

Conscientious shoppers set a new bar for customer expectations

However, data shows that while consumers shifted to online shopping, people also started favouring local and purpose-driven businesses as the world started facing even more racial injustice, economic instability, and political uncertainty. A Deloitte Digital study found that, in the UK, 3 in 5 consumers purposely chose local businesses to help out. In the US, a Zeno group survey showed that consumers are now 4 to 6 times more likely to support purpose-driven businesses as they were before the pandemic.

Our review data also highlighted that two of the most mentioned keywords in 5-star reviews throughout 2020 were “delivery” and “customer service”. This proves that customer expectations are just as high in times of crisis, and that customer service is still one of the best assets a business can have to build trust and combat uncertainty.

Overall, businesses have really had to adapt to a new reality in 2020; and as consumer purchasing behaviors changed, brands were left with the challenge of constantly trying to keep their head above water.

In this section, we discussed some of the behavioral changes that we witnessed in 2020. We also identified the most researched and reviewed industries on Trustpilot.com – but what about other industries? Industries who may have been greatly impacted by Coronavirus? In the next section, we’ll review the Health & Wellness sector, as well as the Travel & Tourism industry.

2. The industries most impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak

In an effort to better understand the true impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, our team also looked at consumer trends around mental Health & Wellness. With the pandemic hitting and many people losing their jobs and feeling isolated, we wanted to get an understanding of just how much Coronavirus was impacting this industry.

The Health & Wellness industry saw significant growth during the pandemic

Perhaps unsurprisingly, consumer demand for mental health and wellness services skyrocketed in 2020:

  • Ginger, a teletherapy and mental healthcare app, saw utilization rates reach their highest ever last September, right in the middle of the pandemic. Usage of their text-based mental health coaching was up 159% compared to their pre-covid averages, and usage of virtual therapy and psychiatry were up 309% compared to their pre-covid averages.
  • Doctor On Demand saw massive increases in new patients seeking teletherapy up over 50% throughout October and even higher than the initial spikes when the pandemic hit last spring.

We also looked into our review data to identify trends on our own platform, and uncovered how often reviews included the phrases mental health, wellness, and well-being on Trustpilot.com.

Number of reviews with keywords mental health, wellness, and well-being on Trustpilot.com from  February to August 2020, and August to February 2021.

Number of reviews with keywords mental health, wellness, and well-being on Trustpilot.com from February to August 2020, and August to February 2021.

Number of reviews with keywords mental health, wellness, and well-being on Trustpilot.com from  August to November 2020, and November to February 2021.

Number of reviews with keywords mental health, wellness, and well-being on Trustpilot.com from August to November 2020, and November to February 2021.

Number of reviews with keywords mental health, wellness, and well-being on Trustpilot.com from  February 2019 to February 2020, and February 2020 to February 2021.

Number of reviews with keywords mental health, wellness, and well-being on Trustpilot.com from February 2019 to February 2020, and February 2020 to February 2021.

When you look at the data trends for these phrases in the first year of the pandemic compared with the year prior, mental health and wellness terms are being mentioned quite a bit more, which isn’t too surprising.

What’s more interesting is that when you look at more recent periods such as the 6 month and 3 month comparisons, the numbers are still jumping pretty significantly — even though you might assume that things would have been their worst around when the pandemic hit and so much of our lives was up in the air.

This suggests that although the pandemic has certainly quickened the growth trends for mental health, these stats aren’t solely because of that. The focus on mental health and wellness for consumers will only keep growing after the pandemic, and companies should keep this in mind.

We also looked into how all companies – regardless of their industry – can help look after the mental health of both their customers and employees and stay relevant with these trends, so make sure you check out the full report.

Overall, there’s no doubt that the growth of the Health & Wellness industry was accelerated by the rise of COVID-19. And although this industry is continuing to trend today, other sectors have been brought to a complete standstill. The Travel & Tourism industry is one of them.

The Travel & Tourism industry stagnated during lockdown

The Coronavirus crisis has been one of the biggest challenges the Travel & Tourism industry has had to face so far. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) found that popular travel destinations welcomed 900 million fewer international tourists between January and October 2020, compared with the same period of 2019. During the same period of time, international arrivals also dropped by over 74%.

In March of 2021, we looked at global travel consumer activity on our platform to comprehend just how much the tourism sector was hit by the virus.

Sadly, it came as no surprise when we found that the average number of travel service reviews collected during the pandemic was 39.7% lower than the year before. Similarly, the average number of global travel product reviews left during the pandemic was 81.8% lower than in 2019.

Travel service reviews on Trustpilot.com from January 1st 2019 to February 29th 2020.

Travel service reviews on Trustpilot.com from January 1st 2019 to February 29th 2020.

Travel service reviews on Trustpilot.com from March 1st 2020 to March 1st 2021.

Travel service reviews on Trustpilot.com from March 1st 2020 to March 1st 2021.

This data indicates that while service reviews were still being left from customer service interactions (travel refunds, travel vouchers, etc.) at the beginning of the pandemic, product reviews were hit a lot harder as people weren’t experiencing any new travel products (i.e. activities, food, or accommodation).

Our data also showed that travel reviews dipped as soon as travel restrictions started appearing across the world, and spiked again when some countries started easing lockdown. This could suggest that most people stopped traveling because of government measures and restrictions, rather than fear of the virus – an encouraging sign for the future of travel.

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had a large impact on the global travel industry, and even if we hope recovery will be strong, it is possible that travel will not look the same for the foreseeable future.

We anticipate some worldwide shifts with people traveling more responsibly and seeking quality over quantity travel. There’s also talk of a global vaccination passport, which could push consumers to travel to familiar destinations or opt for staycations instead.

And given the ongoing worldwide uncertainty, it’s safe to say that traveling smarter will play a huge role in the future of tourism.

The Health & Wellness industry as well as the Travel sector have both been greatly impacted by Coronavirus, each in their own way. Our data suggests that the Health & Wellness industry will continue to grow fast in the coming months, and that there is hope for the future of tourism. In the next section, we’ll imagine what a post-pandemic world could look like, and discuss the importance of trust in times of uncertainty, as well as in times of recovery.

3. Looking to the future, post pandemic

Some industries were given a boost thanks to shifts in consumer behaviors due to COVID-19, while others were badly affected by the global economic crisis.

eCommerce experienced record breaking surges when everyone was forced to stay home, and eCommerce’s dominance is likely here to stay. Demand for travel agents – previously in decline – is now seeing customers return due to confusion around travel and regulations. And companies that promote any sort of activity from home – working or learning remotely, working out at home, etc. – have now been able to get their products into more households than ever before.

But for many brands, this is not the case. Although we’re well over a year into the pandemic, with vaccination rates so different from country to country, it’s still difficult to know when things will settle back to normal – or what that normal will even look like. This puts most companies in a challenging position. How can you plan your brand’s future effectively when there’s so much uncertainty around what the future will look like?

Adapting your business to delight customers with higher expectations

One thing that’s for certain is that – now more than ever – consumers need to be able to trust in the brands they shop with. They want to know that whatever they’re purchasing is going to arrive as expected, function as expected, and fill whatever need they have. You can minimize the uncertainty in your customers’ lives by collecting reviews from all of your customers and making them as easy to find as possible.

Another way to help your business recover is to treat online reviews as a way to have a meaningful engagement with your customers. Today’s consumers want to shop with brands that genuinely care. If you’re getting negative feedback, always respond and try to make good with that customer. And know that other shoppers are seeing how you handle those complaints and making their purchasing decisions accordingly.

Are you ready to build a more trustworthy brand? Collecting reviews on Trustpilot will show your customers that you have nothing to hide and help start an open dialogue with them for a better experience for both of you.

This can help you prepare for a post-pandemic world. And although consumer trends will always change, and the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic is far from over, the stronger your brand reputation is, the better prepared you’ll be for any crisis – large or small.

Download our free executive summary 2-pager to share with your team or colleagues, and request a free Trustpilot demo below.

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