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Changes in Consumer Behavior and Demands

There are a variety of aspects that contribute to the unpredictability in which businesses and end consumers are now operating. Increased income inequality, restrictions on cross-border travel, shifting consumer demand, especially, indeed, the transformation of market participants are only a few of the variables impacting the economy. Following the worldwide lockdown, social isolation, and other steps being taken to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, customers are being urged to invest additional money on online marketplaces to compensate for the loss of income (Altig & Baker, 2020). Associated with the coronavirus epidemic, the international economy in general, and interstate trade in particular, have suffered and continue to suffer tremendous losses. A substantial number of changes occurred in the business environment as a result of the quarantine period, and these changes occurred at a rapid speed. The corona crisis ultimately assisted the expansion of internet commerce by accelerating the pace, as previously said. Throughout the globe, a younger generation of digitally connected customers has emerged, one that is more discriminating and faces financial difficulties.

Even while a customer's bag may have included a varied range of goods and services that before outbreak began, important items such as medication, sanitizers and cleaning products, conveyance, and other necessities were prioritized during the outbreak. Thanksgiving shopping habits, which are unique to the festive period, have also experienced major transformation (Ardito & Messeni, 2019). In light of the fact that the majority of customers remained forced to eat at home even during shutdown, the restaurant industry reported an increase in internet shopping during this period. It really should stand to reason that many more affordable items were preferred at that point in the campaign, given the fact that the many online shoppers reported a decline in their earnings at the time. As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, unexpected stresses were imposed on food systems, resulting in a number of acute problems. Thought-provoking has been the speed by which distribution networks, at least in the industrialized world, have all managed to restructure themself in order to ensure the continuous supply of food in recent years (Food Standards Agency, 2020). COVID-19's growth will almost certainly result in the continuation of current bottlenecks and the emergence of some additional disruptions. As a result of these efforts, policymakers have successfully avoided many of the mistakes that were made as during global crisis of 2007-2008, and have implemented a range of extra steps to ensure that food chain networks remain operational correctly in the future. The rapid response of food supply chains have underlined the need of a transparent and honest international commerce environment, which allows firms to shift their attention to other sources of electricity when old means of supply are disrupted or destroyed.

Restaurant reservations were down dramatically in the first several weeks of March, and they're almost non-existent after lockdowns have been imposed. While the entire scope of the pandemic's impact on food chains has yet to be revealed, certain lessons have been already learnt in the wake of the outbreak. Opening up the market and making it dependable have been important in ensuring ensuring food is supplied smoothly throughout supply chains and delivered to the regions where it is needed (Macak & Hron, 2017). Due to the implementation of COVID-19, consumer price of food consumed away from home has changed substantially away towards restaurants, catering services, and other forms of "food away from home," demanding major changes in the way food supply chains operate. Restaurant and café sales decreased over the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, as did sales of food consumed away from home (Küçük and colleagues, 2021). Since there are various sources of supply, firms across the food chain have already been able to respond swiftly when specific input sources have been harmed as a consequence of transportation or logistical delays. This has allowed firms throughout the food chain to remain competitive. Furthermore, meeting the requirements of vulnerable people demands paying special attention to food supply, which may be achieved by putting in place targeted, adaptive safety nets, among other measures.

Challenges for Food Supply Chains

It doesn't matter where you live on this planet; the new forms of research, methodology, and technologies established during the epidemic are not only being widely embraced, but they are also opening up new possibilities for controlling online consumer behaviour. Consumers' digital abilities must be prioritized by businesses, which must clearly specify the areas within which they have to gain their trust in order to be successful (Ardito & Messeni, 2019). The onset of the pandemic has caused each of the characteristics indicated above to accelerate at a far faster rate than they were before. We've already discussed the importance of real-time observation of changing consumer behavior, the combination of online and offline channels, mechanization, flexibility, and the importance of respecting society's values. As a response of the pandemic, there has simply been an increase in scientific interest in most of these endeavors as a result of the epidemic. The relevance of monitoring and control is growing significantly in the modern paradigm: total quarantine is reflected in user behavior all over the globe in the modern era of the internet. Company executives will find it difficult to strategize for their future operations unless they first understand what has occurred (Küçük et al., 2021). This category includes two marketing activities that are diametrically opposed to one another. It has been demonstrated via research that the cumulative impact of the outbreak on consumption habits has significant ramifications for the business sector. Customers no longer profit from characteristics which are no longer crucial to their purchase choices in the new world, and companies cannot utilize these characteristics to promote pricing tactics that are no longer beneficial to them.

In January 2021, there was a considerable rise in the number of online purchases. A recent study found that, on average, Internet users have gained greater confidence while buying online and therefore have grown more interested in obtaining high-quality things at lower prices. Customers, on the other hand, tended to choose online stores that provided a wide variety of items (Minority Rights, 2020). During the first quarter of 2018, purchases at grocery stores shops climbed by 73.4 percent as well as 49.9 percent, correspondingly. Domestic products, luxury items, sporting goods, and other things all saw increases in price, as did other commodities. Employing their smart phones, the vast majority of consumers choose to look for a specific product in 2019. The most common searches in 2019 were for luxury goods and fashion, skin care, leisure, gastronomy, transportation accessories, and home-related things (Santander, 2021). When it comes to seeking for alternatives to traditional energy management methods, desktop computers and personal computers are perhaps the most preferred choices. In terms of website traffic produced by smartphones, it should be mentioned that the quantity varied depending on the product category and was rather low.

Because to the advent of an epidemic, the year 2020 will go down in history. As stated by the World Health Organization, "the COVID-19 pandemic poses a significant threat to population safety, food production, or the business world on a scale never before seen" (Altig & Baker, 2020). There have been dangerous sociodemographic disruptions as a direct consequence of the global epidemic, which include abject poverty as well as the loss of employment and economic opportunity in huge groups of individuals, as well as ontological difficulties for many organizations as a direct consequence of border closures, trade restrictions, detention, and other indicators. During the same period, online transactions for holiday services, fashion products, and luxury goods showed a loss of 33 percent, 5.2 percent, as well as 2.8 percent, correspondingly, as a consequence of the decrease in total transaction volume. As Internet users, especially those involved in e-commerce, expanded their reliance on the system, a high level of security, as well as a customizable exchange market that could facilitate cross-currency payments, became more important requirements. As per Bradbury-Jones as well as Isham (2020), COVID-19 resulted in a number of intriguing psychological, social, and administrative changes, involving psychosocial challenges, job losses, insufficient cash, fear and stress during outside encounters, and an uncertain future (Minority Rights, 2020).

Technological Implications of the Crisis

According to a research by PwC, COVID-19 had a major influence on consumer behavior, resulting in people acquiring more essentials and taking benefits of online shopping options than in previous years. During the outbreak, there was a significant increase in interest in making purchases over the internet. The contactless shopping procedure has made e-commerce the preferred form of purchasing for many individuals, and this is due to the fact that it is convenient (Food Standards Agency, 2020). A consequence of the growth in online purchasing, many merchants have sought to organize promotional events via platforms in order to strengthen their brands and raise revenue by allowing consumers to transmit pertinent data as well as invite Friends on social media to the occasion. Furthermore, the influenza virus has had an impact on the consumers' purchasing decisions. McKinsey and Company argued that consumer behaviour and attitude has evolved as a result of "the period of epidemic, personal traits, and economic turmoil," and that such changing customer tendencies have always been affecting all sorts of people: the manner they collaborate, learn and communicate; the way that they commute; the manner that those who shop but instead of devour; the way something which they live with parents; the way that people dazzle oneself; as well as the way that they come to terms with there own overall health are all being influenced (Ryan, 2016).

In the three months between March 2019 as well as March 2020, online sales increased by 44 percent, thus according Statista. e-commerce places that offer medical supplies, for example, showed a 130 percent spike in orders year over year throughout the first shutdown, increased supply for sanitizers and face masks. Unfortunately, the circumstance was far from perfect; although e-commerce sales increased in certain categories, revenues in other areas fell by a significant amount. When corresponding period in 2019, online sales in Italy climbed by a significant amount between February and April of the following year (Jackson & Ahuja, 2016). A major impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the e-commerce business was seen over the weekend, with the effects being especially visible (COVID-19). According to the report, online sales climbed by 90 percent on March 8 when compared to the same period the previous year. In addition to the United States, the United Kingdom had a large surge in e-commerce turnover. Approximately half of the survey members from Italian e-commerce firms said that the influenza had a negative impact on their operations, according to the research (Ardito & Messeni, 2019). In the United Kingdom, a similar issue has been seen; according to a research conducted on e-commerce organizations, sales were dropping in 37 percent of the all the businesses studied.

Online shopping during an outbreak has a number of disadvantages, one of which being the temptation to make fast purchases. Naeem presented findings from his study on how social media could affect anxiety and consumer behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a specific focus on the role of social media in promoting panic purchase behavior and, subsequently, holiday shopping reactions (Ryan, 2016). Online merchants in the United Kingdom have expressed concern about a shortage of housing and supply problems, which they say is the most important problem they are experiencing. The tourism sector has been one of the most severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and it is expected to continue to be so. When comparing October 2020 to about the same month in 2019, Trenitalia, the primary Italian travel website that offers train tickets, showed a 65 percent decrease in sales. The coronavirus epidemic is expected to cause the corporation to forfeit 2 billion euros in sales in 2020, according to the company. In the three months between January and November 2020, Pelikan.sk, a UK-based internet ticket and tour provider, reported a drop in website visits of around 580,000 visitors, representing a 70 percent loss in potential clients during this period (World Economic forum, 2021). "Content marketing and pressure from deep links could enhance consumer panic purchase behavior," he observed, among other things. He also demonstrated that social media impacts people's collective reaction to the coronavirus and modifies their panic purchase decision.

As he saw, the wave of feelings of alienation and the decision to stay at home, in relating to cultural media interactions and government messaging, all led to a rise in worry and uncertainty, which culminated in impulsive shopping behavior. In their paper, Islam et al. emphasize that panic shopping has become a global phenomena "showing that consumers have lost power in the era of Coronavirus lockdown (World Economic Forum, 2021)," according to the authors. It is said that hurried and excessive purchases by consumers exhausted store shelves, leading in scarcity of some commodities, notably in the case of hygiene and food products. In his article, the post pointed out that rumours and disinformation on social media have created perceptions of risk among customers, leading them to make impulse buys in order to be able to stay at home for an extended period of time. Photographs showing empty shelves and long lines in front of shops have flooded social media platforms as a consequence of the flood of information regarding panic purchasing. This has exacerbated concerns by reinforcing the tendency of consumers to make impulsive and excessive purchases.

Conclusion

Introversion, on the other hand, has lost some of its significance. Introversion had been shown to have only a weak relationship with the two primary criteria that accompanied it: promptness in long term planning and consistency in online buying intention (Küçük et al., 2021). Because consumers become less apprehensive about online shopping and more comfortable with their decision-making processes, the association between these qualities became less significant. It was discovered via an analysis of web traffic that there was a considerable increase in visits to online supermarkets during the coronavirus epidemic. As a result of this link, it seemed as if the parameters under research were on the verge of becoming stronger. In the beginning, Consumer Awareness and Experience, as well as Introversion, were the most important factors influencing online purchasing behavior, with all other factors having just a little impact at best. Nevertheless, when the COVID-19 outbreak grew, the situation changed rapidly. Increasing Awareness and Expertise, as well as Timeliness in Decision Making, all had a role in the increase in its impact. According to the findings of this survey, online shoppers were devoted to making their purchases on a daily basis. As a result of the pandemic, online users were pushed to maintain consistency in their shopping patterns. Following the completion of a correlation study, the researchers observed a steadily rising relationship between online purchasing behavior and characteristics linked with being a reflexive buyer (Ardito & Messeni, 2019). Consumers that purchase online have also gained more expertise in the process. The outcomes of this study demonstrated a shift in the components that impact the buying behavior of online consumers during the COVID-19 period, according to the findings. Overall, the study revealed that forthrightness in decision-making had become an increasingly important component in online purchase decisions.

Altig, D. & Baker, S., 2020. Economic uncertainty before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Public Economics, Volume 104274, pp. 1-191.

Ardito, L. & Messeni, A., 2019. Towards Industry 4.0: Mapping digital technologies for supply chain management-marketing integration. Business Process Management Journal, 25(2), pp. 323-346.

Food Standards Agency, 2020. Key regulations. [Online]
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Karjaluoto, H., Mustonen, N. & Ulkuniemi, P., 2015 . The role of digital channels in industrial marketing communications. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 30(6), pp. 703-710.

Küçük, H., Lenoël, C. & Macqueen, R., 2021. UK economic outlook: Brexit Britain in Covid recovery ward. National Institute Economic Review, p. 255.

Macak, T. & Hron, J., 2017. Reducing revenues variability in agriculture and food sectors by settings of 4C marketing mix factors. In: Agrarian Perspectives XXVI. Competitiveness of European Agriculture and Food Sectors, Proceedings of the 26th International Conference, 13-15 September 2017 Prague, Czech Republic. Prague: Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Faculty of Economics and Management, pp. 198-203.

Minority Rights, 2020. While we all spoke about COVID-19, Algeria passed two worrisome laws in the blink of an eye. [Online]
Available at: https://minorityrights.org/2020/05/12/algeria-discrimination-laws/
[Accessed 16 March 2021].

Ryan, D., 2016. Understanding digital marketing : marketing strategies for engaging the digital generation. 4th edition ed. s.l.:Kogan Page.

Santander, 2021. Opportunities ahead for UK food and beverage sector. [Online]
Available at:

https://www.santander.com/en/press-room/news/opportunities-ahead-for-uk-food-and-beverage-sector#:~:text=The%20food%20industry%20is%20the,consequences%20that%20Brexit%20may%20bring.
[Accessed 17 Feb 2021].

Tiago, M. T. P. M. B. & Manu, J., 2014. Digital marketing and social media: Why bother?. Business Horizons, 57(6), pp. 703-708.

Wood, S. E., 2017. Police body cameras and professional responsibility: Public records and private evidence. Preservation, Digital Technology & Culture, 46(1), pp. 1-41.

World Economic forum, 2021. These countries rank highest for digital competitiveness. [Online]
Available at: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/09/countries-rank-highest-digital-competitiveness/
[Accessed 11 Sept 2021].

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