Online Lifeline: How Consumers Are Changing Their Habits As The Pandemic Eases

Email marketers are about to face the scariest threat of all: A changing audience.

That’s what it amounts to as people return to the office, take their masks off, go to restaurants and hop on planes for the first time in a year. 

But some of these activities could spell opportunity, according to 2021 Global Consumer Trends, a study by Qualtrics XM.

Consider the online activities consumers took up for the first time during the pandemic:

  • Video calls with friends and family — 24% 
  • Ordering groceries — 21%
  • Purchasing products — 21% 
  • Order a meal from a restaurant — 19%
  • Take a class or course — 18%
  • Watch a movie or TV — 17%
  • Handle personal banking — 17%
  • Contact customer service — 15%
  • Participate in an exercise class — 14%
  • Attend a religious service — 13%



This varied by country, with 97% of consumers in India taking up a new online activity versus 44% in Japan. 

What happens now that the pandemic supposedly is receding?

The study predicts that emerging economies will see a greater shift to digital, that online streaming will continue to grow and that education will continue to take place both online and offline.  

In addition, more people will buy products online, watch a movie or TV, and contact customer service. 

But fewer consumers will go online to participate in an exercise class, engage in a video with family or attend a religious service. Over half of the countries studied will see fewer people taking online courses. 

But people will increasingly bank online, a trend that accelerated during the pandemic. Only a few countries will see a decline — Spain (-5%), Germany (-2%) and Japan (-2%). Of course, these countries also have the lowest trust in banks.

Here’s how consumers worldwide choose brands:

  • Products & services — 43%
  • Customer service — 23%
  • Low prices — 18%
  • Community service — 16%

These things, too, vary slightly by country, with Japan leading the product & service preference at 50% and most nations hitting around 40%. 

However, even in countries where high quality is not the biggest factor — say, Thailand and Brazil — it still ranks as second-highest.  

Most people do not expect to attend a religious service online after the pandemic — they prefer in-person services.  

Globally, consumers are most likely to trust these types of organizations, based on a five-point scale: 

  • Department store — 76%
  • Fast food restaurant — 74%
  • Online retailer — 74%
  • Parcel delivery service — 76%
  • Supermarket — 79%
  • Bank — 75%
  • Credit card provider — 72%
  • Internet service provider — 67%
  •  Mobile phone provider — 67% 
  • Streaming media service — 76%
  • Hospital or medical clinic — 80% 
  • Public utility — 72%

Based on recent good experiences, 91% have high trust in colleges and universities, and 83% in online retailers, mobile phone providers and streaming media companies (the lowest score).  

Among those who suffered bad experiences with government agencies, 35% continue to trust them and 50% will do the same with supermarkets. 

Qualtrics XM surveyed 17,809 people in 18 countries during Q1, prior to some recent new outbreaks: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, UK, and the U.S. There were roughly 1,000 participants from each. 




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