ULI MEMBER-ONLY CONTENT: The tendency to isolate yourself from the outside world by sheltering at home could be an enduring effect of the coronavirus pandemic, Miki Tsusaka, managing director and senior partner in the Tokyo office of Boston Consulting Group, said in early September at ULI Asia Pacific’s REImagine conference.
‘“‘Cocooning’ is here to stay,” said Tsusaka, a expert on global consumer sentiment and marketing. “We saw the same pattern, actually, after the big earthquake in Japan, where people did spend more time at home, but that faded. We think this will stick a little bit longer.”
Tsusaka noted that despite China’s ongoing economic recovery from the pandemic, the nation is seeing “prolonged” cocooning. Underscoring that trend: 67 percent of Chinese consumers now prioritize time with friends and family more than they had before the pandemic, according to Boston Consulting Group survey data, and 49 percent do not feel comfortable shopping in person for nonessential items.
Around the world, stay-at-home measures stemming from the pandemic have fueled the growth of cocooning behaviors. For example, Boston Consulting Group data indicate that 60 percent of people in China are cooking at home more since the pandemic began, 56 percent of Brazilians are doing more shopping online, 69 percent of Indonesians are working more at home, and 52 percent of Malaysians are consuming more in-home entertainment.
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Faith Popcorn, a futurist and marketing consultant in the United States who is credited coining the term cocooning in 1981, recently tweeted that the pandemic “will redefine our homes forever—favoring bunkers and self-sustainability.”
Colin Sebastian, a senior research analyst at U.S.-based investment bank Baird, said in February that cocooning would contribute to e-commerce growth, at least for a while. He added that extended cocooning should boost video gaming. Other analysts observed that video-streaming services like Netflix also stand to benefit. The Wall Street Journal cited the need for more casual and comfortable clothing as a negative impact on retailer Brooks Brothers.
However, that desire for in-store shopping does not dismiss the ascent of omnichannel retail. Tsusaka cited “clear and abundant” data indicating that omnichannel customers are more valuable for retailers than single-channel customers. For instance, a report released in 2019 found that an omnichannel shopper spends 15 percent more per purchase than a single-channel shopper does.
“I think a customer is a customer,” Tsusaka said, “whether they happen to walk into your physical door or your digital door.
“Part of doing this consumer sentiment work,” she added, “is to encourage everyone that’s operating in the retail space, including the real estate industry, to take an end-to-end view of the total customer.”
Part of that view involves creating unique experiences for in-store shoppers. Tsusaka said that it is not enough to entice customers with discounts. Consumers are more likely to visit a store if they can, for instance, meet a designer or an artist—a “special experience they can only experience physically,” she said.