Green acres is the place to be

The physical dispersion of consumers will change everything…and also ecommerce logistics.

It’s said that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated by 3-5 years (or more!) trends that were already happening:

  • Streaming video services displacing movie theaters & live TV.
  • Telemedicine displacing office visits to doctors.
  • Online degree programs displacing campus-based higher education.
  • Remote work displacing office jobs.
  • Ecommerce displacing in-store shopping.

The economic and societal impacts from this dispersal of consumption—or what Scott Galloway calls “The Great Dispersion”—are only starting to become apparent. When we achieve critical mass vaccinations (i.e., herd immunity), we’ll no doubt all be swimming in a ‘return to normalcy’…but for how long?

It’s true some pandemic-driven behaviors will snap back like rubber bands once the pressure of quarantines and social distancing are removed. The resting state of these behaviors are emotional norms, like wanderlust that will once again spark travel; or like familial bonds that will bring back social gatherings. But as the coronavirus has shown us, it only takes introducing some new friction to stretch norms once again. Some of these, like the serendipity of finding a product while browsing aisles in a store, likely don’t have enough emotional pull to fully return us to the way it used to be—mostly because the pandemic opened the eyes of many consumers to the lack of friction in ecommerce. 42% of consumers say they’ll shop online more often after the pandemic. Even slower delivery hasn’t stopped this trend.

When we come out on the other side of this pandemic, we will find that physical distance will have stretched the rubber band to a degree we may be taking for granted. The pandemic-accelerated trends listed above have formed an epiphany in many consumers minds: I could live anywhere…so why live here?

dispresion chart

An astonishing 1 in 3 adults (32%) report that they have  either decided to move or say that moving is on the table in the next 12-18 months

  • Leading this great migration are Gen Zers, of whom more than half (54%) have either made the decision or are open to it.
  • Even Baby Boomers, who are the least likely to change behaviors, are open to or decided on moving in double digits (20%).
  • 42% of urbanites are planning or open to moving.
  • Where are they going? 31% say they are heading somewhere less densely populated.
    • Surprisingly, 1 in 3 urbanites (31%) and suburbanites (33%) plan to move to less dense areas—and so do more than 1 in 4 (27%) rural residents…which begs the question, how much more rural can you get?
    • This shift can already be observed in the realignment of residential rental prices, where major cities have seen the price drop, while smaller cities have seen significant growth:


What does this mean for ecommerce logistics?

  • Good news for home furnishings, household supplies and home improvement/DIY retailers: 30% more adults expect to increase their online shopping once they move, including 43% more urbanites.
  • The bad news for all retailers: lower population density increases the cost of residential delivery. Expect to bear the brunt of higher delivery area (DAS/EDAS) and other residential surcharges from private carriers as consumers live further and further apart.
  • Compounding the cost to retailers: consumers who plan to move say they will expect greater convenience with home delivery and returns home pickup once in their new homes.

BOXpoll™ by Pitney Bowes, a weekly consumer survey on current events, culture,and ecommerce logistics. Conducted by Pitney Bowes with Morning Consult //2094 US consumers surveyed February 2021.© Copyright Pitney Bowes Inc.

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