For almost a year and a half, we’ve heard the phrase “new normal” thrown around a lot to describe the massive shift in behavior created by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a vague set of socially distanced lifestyle changes that the world – with a few stumbles along the way – has more or less gotten used to, while even finding ways to thrive.
But as NuData Vice President of Emerging Technologies Robert Capps told PYMNTS, the world is slowly opening up again, and people are getting back out there. The new normal we all spent much of 2020 and the first half of 2021 getting used to is about to be obsolete. In short, the new normal is passing away, to be replaced by a newer normal – and therefore, online services providers all have a lot of retraining to do.
“We’re almost returning to what was a normal pattern about a year and a half ago. And what that means is we have to unlearn a lot of the things that have come to be normal to us,” Capps said.
Reopening the Real World
Consumers, he noted, are getting back out into the real world — dining in restaurants, shopping in stores and attending events. As a result, there may be a drop-off in online transactions and an increase in consumers transacting physically outside their homes.
And while that will look in some ways like a reversion to 2019, appearances can be deceiving. That’s because consumers have shifted their habits, particularly around shopping – and much of that isn’t going to revert, Capps predicted.
Consumers who weren’t using buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) services and had never even considered making a grocery order online pre-pandemic have gotten very used to doing all of those things over the course of the pandemic – and organizations have invested mightily in making those kinds of activities possible.
“The new shopping channels probably aren’t going back to the way they were before; consumers who have become very accustomed to eCommerce may not want to go back to stores,” Capps said. “A lot of the unlearning that companies are going to have here is the relearning of consumer behaviors. Consumers’ patterns have changed tremendously over the last year-plus.”
The pandemic has impacted online consumer behavior in a variety of ways. For example, according to NuData insights, during the start of the pandemic, consumers were making purchases from fewer devices, probably as users stayed in place and relied on the same one or two devices at home. These patterns are already shifting within the U.S., where NuData sees the number of devices and IPs per consumer increasing, but not quite at pre-pandemic levels. This could reflect that more consumers are working in offices again, and that this traffic should not be mislabeled as fraud – another reason that companies need to fine-tune their security as consumers evolve out of the pandemic.
Employers should focus on prevention for a workforce that will be more of a hybrid than the purely in-person or purely at-home dynamics that have formed over the last year. Employees may be signing in from public hotel networks in the future, or carrying data in from their home offices and plugging it directly into corporate networks.
Businesses need to tap artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and a host of other capabilities to learn and map what the new patterns will look like, enabling them to recognize end-users or employees – or they run the risk of creating a lot of undue friction.
Staying Ahead of the Change
Workplaces will also have to adapt to a world where consumers are carrying data into and out of the office throughout the week, and consumers working from “home” may be in hotels in vacation destinations connecting to their employers via a public Wi-Fi network, Capps said.
“Companies’ priorities should be set on making sure those systems are ready for these changes that are coming, so they don’t create too much friction for the users,” Capps said. “If businesses get this wrong, there could be a lot of friction for those consumers and workers, and a lot of lost productivity. Organizations just need to be prepared and flexible to adapt to the changes.”