We are already over halfway through the year, which means one thing for retailers: planning for Q4 2020 is upon us. And if there’s one thing we can say for certain, it’s that the worldwide emergence of Covid-19 has had a monumental impact on the retail industry.

Recent consumer behaviour habits have seen an unprecedented shift to shopping online, reduced-contact ways of accessing products and an emphasis on buying local. It’s not hyperbolic to say that consumer habits have been forced to adapt quicker than ever before. And, such a historic change in consumer behaviour means that how you were planning to reach your audience in Q4 2020 will be dramatically different too.

Below, we take you through the consumer behaviours you’re likely to see in Q4 2020 and how you can plan to successfully reach your consumers and, most importantly, keep the tills ringing.

Q4 2020: Consumer Behaviour Trends

Consumers to Go Buying, Not Shopping

The main message for retailers is that consumers will go buying, not shopping. Consumers no longer want to browse in-store, or their browsing time will be cut down dramatically to functional and quicker in-store purchases. This means they will be going through that discovery process digitally.

52% of adults surveyed plan to spend less time in stores or visit stores less frequently because of the COVID 19 outbreak. This is a habit that is extremely unlikely to change in Q4.

Many new consumer behaviour habits like ‘Shopping online more frequently’ are habits consumers are planning on continuing well after lockdown ends. Indeed, 33% of those who weren’t purchasing online regularly prior to the outbreak plan to spend more time shopping online after the outbreak including over the Q4 period.

New product discovery will be digital in Q4 2020

The exploration of new products has been a growing trend, even pre-COVID-19. 53% of shoppers explored new products during Q4 in 2019, more than any other time of year - up from just 19% in Q4 of 2018. The growing trend for consumers exploring new products will continue to increase for Q4 2020.

With the main bulk of product discovery and browsing expected to be done at home, brands need to be thinking about how can they make browsing and purchasing quicker, easier and safer for consumers. Brand coherence and a joined up customer journey experience across online channels is, therefore, essential with users now able to switch between platforms with the flick of a thumb.

People start planning earlier than you think

The UK is one of the earliest markets to start planning for Christmas. YouGov conducted a study that shows that 41% of people have already started planning what to buy before the second week in November.

Brands continually save budget for the end of November, and December when the majority of consumers have already planned purchases or know what they’re going to buy. With safety concerns and new shopping habits formed, the Christmas browsing and buying period is going to shift even earlier in 2020.

Consumers are going to want to avoid the Christmas rush on the highstreets and might not have the option to leave presents to the last minute. Therefore, brands need to be pushing budgets earlier to reflect the incoming consumer Christmas demand, or risk missing out entirely on large portions of potential customers.

It is also important to remember is that, historically, those shoppers who plan more, spend more and that is a motivating factor to implement your Q4 strategy earlier rather than later.

So, What Next?

With your online presence likely to come under even greater scrutiny in the coming months the answers don’t lie only in budgets and timings. You need to ensure that you’ve done everything possible to give yourself the best possible chance of success online.

Start with your website. Is it robust enough to withstand increased demand, and optimised enough to convert those consumers that are discovering your brand? These eCommerce marketing tips are a great jumping-off point if you suspect your advertising and website could perform better.

All retailers need to sit up and listen to these emerging consumer trends in Q4 2020. Monumental change is often accompanied by opportunity. The brands that fail to pivot to accelerating consumer behaviour change with agility risk not only poor performance in the remainder of 2020 but a difficult start to 2021 and beyond.