5 Pandemic Habits That Are Here to Stay

Two women, wearing masks and sitting outside at a restaurant, use a QR code to access a digital menu

In the 1970s and 1980s, drivers and their passengers didn’t always wear seatbelts. But today, it’s a force of habit — you get inside, start the vehicle, put on your belt.

It takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit — contrary to the myth of 21 days. Sixty-six days is a long time in some respects, but the fact that the world has been living in a pandemic world, it’s safe to say that most people have acquired some new habits over the past year or so. People begin to perform certain behaviours on autopilot with enough rehearsal. Behaviours such as wearing a mask, washing your hands, and sanitizing every surface you come in contact with are just a few pandemic habits that are here to stay.

Pandemic life has changed how Canadians live. They don’t shake hands anymore; they fist-bump. If they don’t have to, they don’t even go to their doctor’s actual office anymore — they attend a video chat appointment. Instead of going out to a restaurant, people have food delivered or pick it up curbside.

Any repetitive behaviour for an extended period of time becomes easier the longer we’ve engaged in it.

5 Pandemic Habits That Are Here to Stay

It’s been more than a year of changing behavioural patterns — so what habits have people acquired since the start of COVID-19 that likely won’t go away? Some of the most crucial trends for the retail and restaurant sectors include:

  • Contactless payments
  • Curbside pickup
  • Supporting local and small businesses
  • Online shopping and online stores
  • Wearing masks

Contactless payments

A majority of Canadians prefer the shift to contactless payments, and 68% of shoppers say they’ll continue paying like this in the future, suggesting a permanent Canadian mindset shift. In fact, credit card companies have noticed the behavioural change and upped tap limits to $250 from $100. Canadians have actually gotten used to the shift in payments — over 60% use less cash, and more than 40% say they won’t shop or dine at establishments that don’t offer contactless payments. Contactless is the safest payment method, but it’s also faster and more convenient than other payment methods. For instance, many customers enjoy being able to make purchases using the mobile wallet in their phone or smartwatch. And, as payments in cash continue declining, you can expect contactless payments are here to stay. Be sure your signage, website, and social channels let your customers know all the payment methods you accept, including Apple and Google Pay.

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Curbside Pickup

The pandemic accelerated the trend of curbside pickup availability. Some stores had already begun rolling this out, and restaurants have long had a form of curbside pickup in their takeout options. Small businesses of all sizes, restaurants included, can save tremendous dollars on shipping, inventory, and more by implementing and sustaining curbside pickup and delivery options for customers. In fact, curbside pickup increases a store’s sales by around 23% overall. Plus, your customers can browse your products, services, or meal options safely and at their leisure. For restaurant and store owners, this is one of the most viable options for ensuring you can remain open and serving your local community. To create a seamless experience for your customers, make sure your establishment has clearly marked signage outdoors, such as designated parking areas for pickup customers. Text message options are perfect for alerting customers when their purchases are ready for pickup.

Supporting Local and Small Businesses

COVID-19 has brought out the best in so many communities across Canada. We’re really all in this together, and nowhere is this better illustrated than in the fact that 76% more shoppers are supporting local, small businesses than prior to the pandemic. And nearly 35% of consumers say they’d actually pay more for products coming from a local business. As shoppers build relationships with the businesses in their communities, the shop local trend will continue far past the end of the pandemic. You can help consumers in your local area get to know you by hosting socially distanced, masked-up community events or discount sales. As a small restaurant owner, word of mouth is key. Let your customers know you have online ordering, delivery, and curbside pickup options. You can even partner with some of the organizations supporting local restaurants, such as Restaurants Canada.

Online Shopping and Online Stores

When lockdown measures were put in place across the country in March 2020, Canadian consumers did a LOT of online shopping. Statistics Canada reported that e-commerce sales hit a record of $3.9 billion in May 2020—a 99.3% increase over February 2020. While many small businesses pivoted to using e-commerce platforms just to survive the pandemic, others cut way down on their overhead by ceasing their brick-and-mortar operations altogether, instead opting to go completely online. While some consumers are likely keen to get back into physical stores to have the option of trying on shoes, or to avoid the hassle of online returns, it’s a safe bet to say that many Canadians will stick with the convenience of online shopping once the pandemic is over.

Wearing Masks

It’s not always comfortable, but mask-wearing results in a significant reduction in viral transmission to other people. Even if your mask isn’t of surgical quality, it still provides some protection. And while masks aren’t as necessary in outdoor, uncrowded spaces, it’s likely you sometimes have your mask on, lowered below your chin, even when you’re not in a crowded area, simply because you’ve formed the habit of having your mask with you to enter a store, restaurant, or other places of business.
Small businesses that survive the pandemic will likely do so because they focused on changing their business models to better serve their clientele, keep costs down, and prioritize the health and safety of both their employees and customers—here’s hoping these habits are here to stay.