Consumers will change forever post Covid-19, but why and how will that happen, and what does it mean for businesses if they’re going to succeed?

4 May 2020

The one thing everyone seems to be able to agree on is that Covid-19 changes consumer behaviour forever. Whilst we’re still in the midst of Covid-19, opinion on what changes and what it means for business is broad; we asked our Group Strategy and Marketing Director, Gordon Neil for his view.

The challenge with predicting the behaviours of the post Covid-19 consumer is that there are a lot of scenarios for how Covid-19 plays out. On the basis there is a general consensus that we can find a way to manage it, I’ll start from that scenario. In this version, the virus is still in our lives, but we use some form of social distancing to mitigate the risk of a further outbreak. This is likely to be the situation until a vaccine is found, so we’re probably in a managed scenario for at least 12-18 months.

Consumer behaviour trends:

What we’re seeing with Covid-19 is an acceleration of trends that were already developing. I’d expect us to see three behaviour changes that will affect every industry sector:

Quality and Trust: Financial and health security will be at the top of every consumers mind. They will seek quality in everything they buy, but quality doesn’t always mean expensive. Consumers will need to trust what they’re buying, who they’re buying it from - be that the brand or the point of purchase. Where they’re buying it from also determines how they receive it

Local is Better: Consumers will seek out local business because Covid-19 measures have driven hyper local thinking. Local was already a burgeoning trend, the post Covid-19 world is likely to see that continued acceleration as each industry sector reopens. This extends to what consumers buy, where they buy it, and their leisure and entertainment time.

Tech Drives Everything: Covid-19 has driven online shopping within months to levels that would otherwise have been predicted to take years. Not only will this continue, but tech will need to be used by businesses to engage consumers in new ways, including in bricks and mortar locations to make consumers feel safe and give them the experiences they’re looking for.

How environment influences change:

There are two things that are going to inform consumer behaviour, in my view:

Phased change: We don’t just go from todays position to the new future in one leap, it will happen in stages, much the same as social distancing unwinding will be in phases

Economic situation: A period of difficulty in the economy is inevitable, which will constrain more consumers spending, focusing their priorities on the necessities

The phases consumers go through will start with Respond, move to Reset and on to Revolution. In Respond and Reset consumers are likely to engage virtually before physically, they’ll seek open spaces, will limit contact and will stay local. Everyone will be focused on the essentials and any indulgences are likely to start at home before slowly moving back to out of home.

In the Revolution phase we’ll see continuing adoption of the above, making them the ‘new normal’. In this phase we could also see the beginnings of consumers taking a social position in favour of businesses, institutions and government that were seen to support during and after the crisis, abandoning those that didn’t.

The economic situation will also drive these trends, particularly focus on the essentials i.e. health, shelter and food. That’s not to say fashion, entertainment and travel will play no role, but we are likely to see a more conscious consumer who makes more informed decisions. Health, finances, and environmental impact will be huge influencers on those decisions.

What businesses can do to succeed:

Business can absolutely succeed in the new consumer environment, but everyone is going to have to think and act differently. My view is that there are three areas that businesses should be focused on, all of which will drive trust and advocacy:

  • What they Do and Say: Businesses need to think about how to have a visible voice to their customer and consumer during the post Covid-19 phases. What they do will drive affinity and it’s critical that they empathise with the situation rather than exploit it. What they do will be more important that what they say, but the tone of what they say will be critical. Businesses that can demonstrate the principle of ‘we’re all in this together’ are most likely to succeed. Consumers will be conscious of businesses who support charity and the community, with websites like likely to proliferate and be hugely popular with the new conscious consumer.
  • Consumer Connections: In a world where consumers are drawn to virtual before physical, businesses need to focus on everything from simple contactless engagement, payment etc, to how to deliver experiences. Virtual experiences will be a must, consumers won’t ignore physical experiences, but clean will be critical.
  • Role of Technology: Technology will play a big role in solving how businesses engage with their customer and consumer going forward. This starts with online and social presence and how that’s used to engage, but it also extends to how digital; AR and VR can be used to engage and provide much needed connections and experiences.

Although, how these areas can be applied across different industry sectors vary significantly...


Join us through the rest of this week when we look at the impact of changing consumer behaviour on different industries, including Food, Technology, Financial Services, Health and Beauty and On-trade. Follow our LinkedIn page  to be kept up to date with our latest views.




For more information on Gordon Neil, Strategy & Marketing Director, visit his LinkedIn page

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