The quarantine shifted shopping focus from fashionable looks to food and personal hygiene products
People on quarantine go crazy in different ways. Some write songs about coronavirus and sing along on their balconies. Others go out in a dinosaur costume or walk their dogs with the help of drones. Some resourceful citizens in places of the strictest quarantine measures even bought interactive pets very similar to the real animals for the mere chance to get out of their apartment. The latter example brings out the sensitive topic – shopping in times of coronavirus.
Challenges and opportunities
To begin with, quarantine shifted shopping focus from fashionable looks to food and personal hygiene products. New toys for bored kids, board games for the whole family, and DIY kits are still trendy among the isolated. Media subscriptions also brighten up the daily routines of those trapped inside four walls. Quarantine has given people more leisure time and they shop for something to fill it with.
However, shopping changes today are not only about the objects to buy. It’s also a matter of safety. Many familiar shopping ways are extremely dangerous due to COVID-19 contagiousness.
In particular, cash transactions are potential sources of infection. The meaning of the phrase “dirty money” became literal today. Since the World Health Organization has warned that banknotes may transmit the disease, the transition to cashless economies seems more timely than ever. Crowded shopping malls are also not a safe place to shop anymore.
Another popular discussion emerged regarding shopping sustainability and moderation. Some say planet Earth is taking a break from people. Hence, it is time to review one’s shopping habits, distinguishing the essentials from the fancy excessive purchases. Stocking up before self-isolation might be wise, but many people went too far with that. Massive buying of sanitizers, medical masks, some grocery, and sanitary products have left supermarket shelves empty leading to numerous toilet paper memes.
Quarantine shopping tips
The rule of thumb during the quarantine time is as little contact as possible. Minimizing your interactions with people and touching any surfaces in public places is a key to holding back the strides of a pandemic.
Therefore, contactless payments and online shopping are your best quarantine friends. There is no reason to abandon your favorite brick-and-mortar retailers and restaurants altogether. In these harsh times, most sellers are doing everything to stay loyal to their clients and keep their business alive. Hence, they are offering customized online experiences, special offers, and free delivery services.
In China alone, vegetable deliveries increased by 600% year over year during the Lunar New Year period. Experts predict a long quarantine period in the majority of countries will ultimately change our consumption and shopping habits. If grocery goods were traditionally at the bottom of any online shopping ratings, today people have a chance to test the convenience of such deliveries.
When there is an utter need to buy at a physical location (where it is legal), keep the recommended 1,5-2 meters distance, use NFCs and mobile wallets for payments. Don’t forget about the means of self-protection such as masks and gloves. In many countries, these attributes are already a must, but even if they are not, they are highly advisable. Stay away from larger shops and choose less popular shopping hours. Early in the morning or at night in 24/7 stores (in safe neighborhoods, of course) might be a good idea. In addition, many supermarkets temporarily designate special shopping hours for senior citizens and other at-risk populations, who have been advised to avoid leaving home as much as possible.
As for delivery, the contactless way is the best option of all. For example, Postmates announced that customers now have the option to receive orders at their doors, as usual, to meet couriers curbside, or to have deliveries left at the door. Thousands of gig workers who deliver food and other household goods are no longer directly handing bags of groceries to customers. Doordash customers can send a photo of where they’d like their food to be left while Grubhub and Seamless have encouraged customers to contact drivers directly with delivery instructions. To minimize human-to-human contact, companies such as JD.com and Meituan have gone further, experimenting with end-to-end “contactless” solutions using unmanned vehicles and drones.
Even when there’s no fully “contactless” option, try to arrange less contact with the delivery person. For instance, make the full payment online including the delivery fee. Packaging may carry bacteria too. Use gloves while getting rid of it or wipe the package surface with antiseptic whenever possible. Some companies like Chipotle have already taken care of some cleanliness concerns, offering a “new, tamper-evident packaging seal to help ensure food is untouched during delivery.”
Finally, do not overreact about the quantity of the products you need to buy. Total panic brings shortages of the essentials. In the USA, consumers spent an average of $178.44 to stock their quarantine supplies. The most popular purchases among those who stockpiled included cleaning supplies (77%), food (69%), paper products such as toilet paper (68%), water (62%), medication or vitamins (47%), alcohol (24%) entertainment items such as books or movies (13%) and office supplies (6%). Some people are clearly stocking too much since many products have gone off the shelves for a long while. Customers in Canada are seeing shortages of beef, not to mention medical supplies and sanitary goods.
The authorities all over the world appeal to citizens’ rationality, emphasizing that basic supplies might need some time to get transported across local stores, yet food shortages on a national level are not anything to fear. Don’t allow the media footages with empty shelves and enormous queues to force you to buy extra out of panic. There’s no need to stockpile for months. Just plan your grocery list for a week ahead, as many families had already done before, and buy online in the course of the quarantine.
Change of your traditional shopping routines might bring some extra benefits too. There are many shopping apps that allow comparing prices at the nearest local grocery stores. Some examples are Instacart, Grocery King, Basket Savings, etc. Perhaps, you’ll finally give them a chance and start saving on your daily shopping. Shopping online will also protect you from marketing tricks and temptation to buy something unplanned.