This pandemic has created a lot of unprecedented challenges, as well as opportunities brought about by the pivot in consumer habits and behaviours. Allow me to share my observations on what is changing in Filipino habits as we go on our second month of lockdown.
Online Purchases, Payments & Banking. We are teaching ourselves to use online payment systems like GCash, Paymaya and coins.ph. The fintech industry just got a big boost because of COVID-19 and this change in behaviour will be lasting. Consumers are now getting comfortable doing their banking transactions, bill payments, as well as consummating online transactions via these evolving platforms.
Those who have been using Lazada, Shopee, Beautymnl.com, boozy.ph and other popular online platforms are using them more intensively. The huge shift is happening in the purchase of more grocery items and essential goods, the staples of times when people’s movement is curtailed. Predictably, online purchases of other categories will most likely spike as well after the lockdown restrictions have been lifted.
Those who have not been using these platforms have begun to use them due to necessity. Again, e-commerce has suddenly received a booster to their engines. This will continue way after the pandemic has slowed down as buying habits are being permanently changed. Convenience and safety are now more important than price for many consumers.
Expansion of online platforms is concurrently happening, for instance with Grab and Great Deals E-Commerce Corporation, the leading e-commerce in the Philippines partnering together to create GrabMart during this pandemic. This is a business borne out of crisis and need. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Credit goes to the brains behind this business whose time has come. They launched just a few weeks into the lockdown and have become a big help to consumers who need essential items delivered within a narrow window of time. They will no doubt expand to more categories as restrictions are eased.
Lastly, for the first time I have managed to settle all my utility bills and accomplish all my banking transactions online. I have been forced to download and successfully use financial apps to make this happen. I suspect many Filipinos have been forced to learn this as well. It saves a lot of time. It is less risky to health. It will be part of the new normal.
Food Delivery and Consumption. Another seismic shift: People ordering home food delivery is part of the new normal. The lockdown has forced restaurants who have not been focusing on delivery or online ordering to scramble and create both platforms to build another channel for their businesses and sustain their viability. You see this happening from fast food restaurants to casual dining, and even for select high-end restaurants. After all this is over, people may not be willing to eat out as often as before to manage health risk.
New home-based businesses focusing on food preparation and delivery are booming. In our village alone we can decide not to cook for days if we want to. There are several mom and pop home delivery food options to choose from, aside from the more established restaurant delivery businesses. Everything is just a phone call or viber message away.
Aside from cooked food delivery businesses, enterprising individuals and companies offer direct to home delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables. No need to go to wet markets or groceries and supermarkets often if you feel your health is at risk.
With all these home delivery businesses thriving, logistics and delivery companies such as Lalamove, Grab, Entrego, Foodpanda, and even other smaller players are experiencing tremendous growth in demand. With the changes happening today becoming more permanent as time goes by, these companies will continue to thrive and grow.
Work & Study: From Home, at the Office, in Schools. Businesses will surely start adjusting Work From Home policies post COVID-19, if they are not doing so already. The lockdown has shown how many companies and industries can survive even if employees are working offsite. I also surmise companies with open-space offices are now planning to re-work their set-up, and are starting to consider batch scheduling of employees who will work at the office and from home on a shifting basis.
The pandemic has also shed light on an industry that needs to evolve fast in order to cope with the change. The Philippines has one of the slowest and poorest internet connectivities in the world. With the current and future demand for high-speed residential internet connection and wifi, there is an impetus for internet service providers to ramp-up their expansion plans.
More people are now exploring, experimenting, and thriving with on home-based freelance work and consultancy. VB Consulting, the firm of the Philippines’ leading LinkedIn Marketing Consultant & Personal Branding Strategist Virginia Bautista is a prime example that comes to mind.
Face to face workshops and conferences are shifting to online webinars and training. Those who are courageous enough to take the risks may be the first few to reap the rewards. A new mindset and paradigm is needed. Take for instance the agile move that the country’s leading marketing and sales training company Mansmith & Fielders has executed at such a short period of time. Their online training and development business Continuum Academy Inc. was up and running just a few weeks into the lockdown and is churning out new material almost every week.
More people will definitely be working from home, whether as an employee or as an entrepreneur. But there is also a growing momentum for an offline/online hybrid education to continue even post COVID-19. When the lockdown started in March, all students were forced to study at home until the end of the school year. My children listened, came to online classes via zoom and answered and submitted homework and exams online. At home internet demand is expected to skyrocket further once the new school year starts.
What Now? Where consumer behaviour and habits go, goods and services need to follow. Companies and organisations, whether marketing essential or non-essential goods and services, need to see the writing on the wall. They will need to review their SWOT analyses and strategy houses, as well as challenge their fundamental business assumptions in order to ensure a sustainable and profitable business moving forward.
We are in historically challenging times. But long-term victory will go to those who are resilient, agile and mobile. Companies need to adjust business models to ensure their products and services reach their consumers where they need it, and when they need it. Consumer habits and behaviours are evolving. And many of the changes will be permanent.