Post-COVID and other trends

While the shifts in consumer behavior are as diverse as CEE-countries themselves, a few patterns can be identified. Many of the trends described by our experts fall in the category of sustainability, nutrition, e-commerce, travel, or post-COVID changes.

Sustainability clearly takes the lead when it comes to new forms of consumer behavior in CEE. In Hungary, for instance, the market for green homes is booming – thanks to people's strengthened eco-awareness and a state support program, while Slovenian consumers are growing fond of no-packaging shops. In Romania, fashion-savvy women’s aversion towards used clothes is transforming to a conscious and creative approach to pre-loved clothing, resulting in a wide range of community initiatives like re-sale, swaps shops, and upcycling groups. 

It looks like the demand for new forms of nutrition is growing in the region, which is also partly connected to sustainability. Choosing plant-based foods and beverages, a growing trend in Serbia for instance, is also a response to climate change. Hungary has been taken over by a “free from” craze, while in Bosnia and Herzegovina many young people moved to the countryside, and started small gardens and orchards to produce organic food. 

The e-commerce sector is booming in Central and Eastern Europe, and it is shaped not only by an increasing number of online costumers and a growing turnover, but also by new consumer habits. One of them is the expectation of ultra-fast delivery within only 10 to 15 minutes from the moment of order, as Serbian expert Veljko Golubovic reports. “Q-commerce (abbreviated from Quick commerce) is a new step in the development of online shopping,” he writes. The advantages of e-commerce in Slovenia have also been discovered by more elderly people, while social commerce, the practice of buying through social media channels, is gaining popularity in Slovakia. 

After the coronavirus-related travel-restrictions eased, many people around the region found the joy of discovering new places again. In Croatia, consumers’ desire to travel has been supported by low-cost airline Ryanair that launched 27 new routes in just 12 months, and inspired people to explore these short-break destinations. On the other hand, more and more young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina are discovering local destinations and visit music festivals and other events organized in the mountains. In Romania, many opted for once-in-a-lifetime adventures, epic destinations and “YOLO”-moments this summer – to recover from the 2-year-long pandemic blues. 

While the aforementioned categories are nothing new, the next one in our classification was born only recently. Post-COVID trends are new patterns of consumer habits that came to life as a response to the pandemic. Going rural, for example, has become very popular, especially in Romania and Poland, as many city dwellers discovered their need for nature, being literally locked up in the city for months. In post-COVID Bulgaria, consumers are thirsty for adventures and prefer to invest in experiences instead of saving money, while lockdowns in Hungary taught many to stockpile. 

The pandemic accelerated the “digital nomad” trend – thanks to the normalization of remote work –, and Croatia is positioning itself as an ideal destination. In 2021, the country legally regulated temporary stay of digital nomads and tax exemption for incomes, attracting more professionals on the go. This led to the rise of co-working spaces, long-stay apartment rentals, and the formation of “digital nomad valleys”. 

“In times of uncertainty and sudden events, consumers are trying to boost their immune systems, work on their mental health, save for bad times, and stock up on basic food and other necessities,” Czech expert Hana Mádlová writes, calling the trend “remaining strong in the bad times”. “They also want to educate themselves and acquire new skills in order to remain attractive in the labor market,” she adds.

Published: May 8, 2023

Over the past 10 years, Böbe worked for media and brands alike. She contributed to magazines, news sites, and corporate publications, and published stories and conducted research in English, Spanish, German, and Hungarian. She gained experience also on the agency side, first working for clients like IKEA, Airbnb and Telenor, and later being the communications manager of weCAN, a position she held for nearly 5 years. She currently works as a communications expert and editor in Berlin, contributing to international projects like the present report.

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