Novelty or Lasting Change? The Consumer Behaviours Set to Last Beyond Lockdown
There’s not much in our lives that hasn’t changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. From our daily work schedules to our interactions with family and friends. Our behaviours have adapted radically in a short period of time and we’ve witnessed incredible creativity and resilience. We’ve seen new generations welcomed into the world of video calling, and social media morph from toxic influence to tonic for loneliness. The forced lockdowns across the world have created ripple effects on the economic, social and healthcare systems, and we’re now seeing concrete evidence of the effect on consumer behaviours too. The big issue facing marketers and brands today is which of these behaviours will last beyond lockdown? This is key to investing in the right experiences to keep ahead of competitors as we ease our way out of the intense lockdowns.
Moving from offline to online experiences
Not surprisingly, we’ve seen an increase in uptake for online shopping (grocery and non-grocery), parcel delivery and video chats. There have also been surges in online fitness and wellness apps, remote learning and restaurant delivery services.
Interestingly, McKinsey research reported a surge in digital activities, yet also reported a surge in consumers spending time outdoors – but the latter could be simply down to people appreciating the great outdoors more when having to be stuck inside all the time!
So, which of these behaviours is set to stay? UK consumers have shown a high intention to continue using online fitness and wellness services beyond lockdown. With these options providing the ability to stay fit for less, gym groups will need to work hard to get people back in the building. Or figure out how to make online classes sustainable, and ultimately profitable. There has also been a 77% user growth in telemedicine services during lockdown and with 45% of new or increased users intending to continue this in the future, this is a market to watch. Online streaming services have seen moderate growth during this period and with 58% of those new users intent on continuing usage after the pandemic, it’s an industry that’s here to stay.
It’s slightly sadder news for restaurant delivery and curb-side pick-up services though, with less than half of new or increased users intending to continue using these services once their favourite eateries are open again. The social aspects and at-table experience of eating out just can’t be matched online, at least not right now.
In the unknown category from the McKinsey report are personal and professional video calling systems. Although both have seen 55%+ growth during the pandemic, consumers are less confident in their intent to continue. For some, that depends on what their employer decides the new company culture should be, and for others, seeing friends and family in person is still preferred.
Technophobes open to digital experiences
The pandemic has accelerated the uptake of digital experiences by self-labelled technophobes, who would have previously cowered away from a video call. We’ve seen an increased uptake of streaming services and video calling among Generation X and Boomers who have sought to connect with others and find new sources of entertainment while in lockdown. This doesn’t mean these generations weren’t online before by any means, it’s just their usage has increased. A report from the Global Web Index shows consumers in the Gen X and Boomers segments are more likely to pay for an online streaming service than they were before the lockdown.
Brands looking to onboard consumers who were previously happy to remain in the offline space need to look at their digital experiences with these kinds of consumers in mind. Creating simple and easy digital journeys for these digital newbies is going to be more important than ever for brands looking to ride the uncertain economic wave that’s coming. Organisations will need to ask themselves how they can create a digital experience that has some of the recognised hallmarks from the offline experience to ease the transition. If brands get this balance right, we predict this audience will continue their shift into digital experiences beyond lockdown.
Held to a higher account
The global pandemic has given consumers an insight into how businesses really behave when their backs are against the wall. We only need to look at Virgin, a brand whose values we at Nalla used to harp on about, to see what happens when a business strays from its purpose. Had Ryanair acted in the same way as Virgin, the backlash wouldn’t have been as bad as consumers didn’t hold them to such high brand value standards. Consumers have become savvier to brands sticking by their employees and who seem to be ‘doing the right thing’. It’s a lesson to practice what you preach and to not underestimate the values of your consumers.
Brands that have remained true to their values and provided their consumers with continued support have come out best; from easy online experiences to special promotions and at-home tips for free. As well as clear communications around how they are keeping their own employees safe, as well as how they are contributing to the greater good of society.
We predict that this expectation on brands is set to continue beyond the lockdown.
Low-touch experiences, with human touches
Given the infectious nature of Covid-19, it’s not surprising that we’ve see a surge in the desire for contactless and online-only experiences. What we’ve also seen are the faces of the individuals working in essential services that have continued through lockdown. From grocery adverts showing the faces of their workforce through to the NHS heroes we’ve been applauding since the pandemic began. There is a very human side to the need for increased contactless experiences, with people embracing digital technologies to connect, learn and play.
This gives an opportunity to brands to embrace their employees and to not shy away from putting a face to their services, even if those services are online.
The desire for contactless services will continue beyond lockdown, but so will the ever-present human need for connection. Brands need to think of creative alternatives to fully in-person experiences, that will improve the overall customer experience and maintain these vital human connections. But how can brands add a human touch to a digital experience? From putting a human face behind the customer service agent on the other end of the keyboard, or the name of the delivery driver being listed next to the estimated parcel drop-off time, small touches to bring people closer while they stay physically apart will continue to matter. Online networking and event platforms with matchmaking technology have already been adopted by some B2B companies to help users connect in meaningful ways with industry peers, just as they would in the physical space.
Brands and organisations that haven’t historically been easily available online must rapidly adapt to the “new normal”, or they simply won’t survive. They need to be open to change and trial new experiences, putting those learnings into action, quickly. We’ve seen how rapidly some organisations have pivoted to offer new services such as contact-free delivery or online ordering where none existed before, so it’s clearly possible for organisations to achieve this at a very quick pace.
The winners from this pandemic have so far been the ones who were either ahead of the competition already in terms of digital experience, or have responded to the sudden changes quickly. The winners going forward will be those who continue to look ahead and act smartly, investing in the right experiences to put themselves ahead of the competition.