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IFA Special Edition: GfK Data Shows COVID-19 Disruption in Consumer Buying Habits

Research firm GfK presented an overview at the 2020 IFA Special Edition on trending buying behaviors among European consumers during the COVID-19 period, and the bottom line, likely as true across the pond in the U.S.,is this: accelerated disruption. But the data indicates that the disruption could also serve to stir up creativity among the retailing community.

Sean O’Neill


In the 2020 COVID-19 era, “Last year’s playbook won’t work,” asserted Sean O’Neill, chief product officer at GfK, during his IFA 2020 statistical presentation. “Consumers are re-thinking long-held habits,” he said. And as a result, physical store retailing channels experienced a drop while online sales ballooned.

Further, click-and-mortar channel sales grew an astonishing 83 percent, year to date, versus the same period in 2019, with traditional retail channels suffering a 10 percent decline over the same period.


GfK also found that 60 percent of surveyed consumers say they will avoid shopping malls as buying destinations. “This creates problems, but also creates opportunities,” he said, noting that social media advertising’s and online advertising’s impact were both on the rise.  In fact, GfK data showed that 55 percent of shoppers had opted to make their purchases through social media channels, with 46 percent choosing to buy brands available only online.

It’s clear, said O’Neill, that “retailers and brands need to compensate for the loss of the showroom experience.” How can retailers compensate? By bringing those in-store experiences to a digital environment, via tools like chat and video conferencing, he suggested.

Further, he said, retailers need to “re-think how you equip your team. You need to seek every competitive edge possible… It’s about finding the signals in all the noise, and putting them in the hands of your decision-makers.”