How might consumer behaviours change in a post-covid world?

During the UK COVID-19 lockdown, Elephants Can’t Jump have been conducting weekly online research groups to track changing consumer habits and behaviours. 

As part of this we explored how consumers predict their everyday behaviours and routines may change in the post-pandemic world once the lockdown has been lifted. All of our respondents believed life would not return to ‘normal’ any time soon, if ever. Some feel that they will be savvier with their money to ensure they have more of a safety blanket, others wonder whether people will reassess living in city centres. Regardless of who we spoke to and where, it is clear that Coronavirus has shaken up society’s norms and altered our habits, and it seems that some of these changes will be embedded into our lives for the foreseeable future. 

Here we outline 5 ways in which consumer habits may change in the wake of lockdown.

  1. Social distancing is sticking around for a while: Social distancing has become the new norm and has enabled us to reduce the transmission of the virus. Many feel nervous about returning to crowded environments and group settings, for fear of contracting the disease. In fact, in a recent YouGov poll, almost two thirds of diners said they would be uncomfortable returning to bars while around six in 10 are reluctant to revisit cafés, restaurants and gyms. People are likely to create their own personal rules of distancing and restrict their public outings even after the Government lifts lockdown. This could have a devastating impact on businesses around the UK. Those that operate in public spheres must identify the new business models that are likely to survive and back them early. Already there are some great examples of brands and businesses showing initiative and carving out ways of working e.g. deliveries, drive-through bottle shops, online classes and workshops etc.
  1. A newfound appreciation for at-home leisure: Over the past 6 weeks, many have rediscovered the joys of home and have taken up in-home hobbies such as arts & crafts, gardening and experimental cooking & baking. Whilst some of these might not stick, many respondents felt that their newfound appreciation for home-time, and concerns over social distancing, would lead to them spending a greater percentage of their leisure time at home. Brands should make sure that they are suitable for in-home leisure and consumption. Those that are reliant on out of home may need to reconsider packaging formats, channels of distribution and communication themes.
  1. An increase in working from home: Lockdown has proven that for many industries, being in the office is not essential with the aid of modern technology. It is likely that businesses may choose to work from home more frequently or even permanently, in order to reduce the costs of office space and travel, and increase time with loved ones. This will put even more pressure on brands to make sure their products/ services are suitable for at-home use, and it may see an explosion of businesses such as cafes and shops out of town and city centres. 
  1. A reassessment of necessity: The financial uncertainty many are facing, in addition to the absence of certain products or a lack of accessibility to them, has led to individuals thinking twice about what they really need to buy. Over the course of the lockdown we have seen consumers tumble down Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and then gradually work their way back up again as they get to grips with the reality of the situation. During the course of this, some are reassessing what ‘necessary expenditures’ and are being more selective about their purchases. Businesses may need to get creative with their comms and innovate in order to re-engage consumers with their product/ service. Perhaps in FMCG, brands will seek larger step changes in their innovation, as opposed to the smaller horizontal steps that we have mainly seen over the last 15 years. 
  1. A heightened value of community: The greatest silver lining to emerge from the pandemic is the sense of community it has fostered. Initiatives such as ‘clapping for our carers’, individuals looking out for vulnerable neighbours and the millions of pounds publicly raised for the NHS, have all contributed to this community spirit. Many are keen for this sense of togetherness to continue as we all feel a responsibility to play our role in fighting COVID-19. To adapt to this shift from ‘I’ to ‘we’, businesses should showcase the ways in which they are stepping up and doing their part for the community. Rather than looking to be edgy, brands should focus on have a tangible impact through being supportive and collaborative. 

To find out more about our COVID-19 Changing Consumer Habits & Attitudes report, please get in touch with the team. 

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