Retail in the post COVID-19 era: changes in consumption patterns

December 22, 2022

Consumer behaviour and new shopping options are part and parcel of our post COVID-19 world and this includes the increasing availability of e-commerce options. The fact is that businesses realised that, given the circumstances, they had no choice other than to quickly reinvent themselves. Now, two years on, what does consumption in the retail sector look like? Let us take a closer look and find out.


There had already been a surge in e-commerce and digital business before we experienced the global health crisis. However, enforced lockdown and restrictions on movement meant that many people started changing how they shopped and online purchases are now mainstream.

One of the main advantages of making purchases in this way is the ease with which we can do everything from the comfort of our homes and get goods delivered to our front door. This has certainly bolstered the popularity of online shopping.

Online purchases reached their peak during the most critical months of the pandemic and descended slightly when it ended. However, Europe is somewhat of a paradigm. According to some studies, there was a 126% growth in e-commerce across the continent compared with 42% in the rest of the world.

Figures show that, around the world, online sales are now an intrinsic part of the way we shop, but in Europe in particular it is an increasingly popular choice.



Physical shops and businesses in the retail sector have had to adapt to new post COVID-19 consumption patterns. Initially, businesses had to put a cap on the number of customers who could enter their shops at any one time and enforce use of face coverings. These factors, plus some consumers’ fear of being in crowds and time limitations on shopping, meant that footfall decreased and physical retail venues were affected more severely than online shops. Now that the situation is back to normal, the sector is recovering.

One of the changes we saw at the beginning of the health crisis that remains in place today was the availability of hand gel dispensers at shop doors. One of the biggest changes in post COVID-19 consumption is how we pay for our purchases and it is a change that looks set to stay; we tend to use contactless payment systems and avoid exchanging coins and notes.Contactless payment cards and online transfers took precedence during the pandemic and now we are using them more than ever. Although it is not yet a common means of making payments, cryptocurrency did become more widely available during the pandemic and usage increased to the point that some businesses now even accept it as a means of payment.


Last of all, sustainability in consumption is a trend that is even more present in the post COVID-19 era. Consumers had already built up an awareness of the impact their purchases make on the environment and now they try to minimise that impact as much as possible. From physical shops to online commerce, the entire supply chain is adapting and knows what it needs to do to become more sustainable.

Some of the biggest changes are happening in the packaging sector and sustainable materials are featuring more and more frequently. Most packaging is already recyclable and much of it is actually made from recycled materials. This change has come in response to consumer preference but also to comply with regulations such as Horizon 2030, the new European strategy on plastics approved by the European Commission, which states that all packaging must be recyclable by 2030.

Couriers are yet another example of how sustainability is stepping up. Consumers have been crying out for green deliveries and this refers to the packaging and to how deliveries are made. Couriers have increased their fleets of electric vehicles and often use sustainable vehicles to complete the final link in the delivery chain.

At SP Group, we always strive to adapt to changes in consumer habits and deliver incredibly sustainable solutions.

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