Catalyst

How Covid-19 has reset our habits & preferences

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on April 16, 2020 Published on April 17, 2020

It has changed people overnight and these changes will, in turn, have a big impact on businesses and brands

Three or four months from now, when hopefully the world goes back to travelling, shopping, dining out, working out of offices, will we be doing things the same way we did pre-Covid-19? Or will our behaviours change dramatically?

A new Accenture report, Covid-19: 5 new human truths that experiences need to address says that the pandemic has forever changed the experience of being a customer, an employee, a citizen and a human.

“Expect to see behaviour change at scale for some time to come,” it forecasts.

The five major human implications to expect from people’s behaviour that have great impact on businesses and brands are:

The cost of confidence: Due to nagging fear and constant uncertainty, people will postpone many purchase decisions. Attitudes to risk may change and people may opt for the familiar, and individualism (a look-out-for-yourself spirit) will rise.

The virtual century: The digitisation trend will accelerate and adoption of virtual medium for all sorts of experiences gain currency.

Every business is a health business: Cleanliness and hygiene will become a major preoccupation and spends on health by both individuals and governments will rise.

Cocooning: The residence may become the sought after retreat and spends on homes as well as local produce could rise.

The reinvention of authority: People may look more and more for guidance and rules. The heavy policing, social distancing norms, special hours in retail outlets for elderly citizens, etc, mean people will become more responsive to authority and there could be a global reset in the way we perceive it.

Ashu Sabharwal, principal founder of Qualisys Research and Consulting, feels that another change that we may see is in the nature of relationships — be it between dating couples who have been forced to go long distance, or married couples thrown together or even between parents and children.

However, one cannot generalise the lasting behaviour change, she says. One has to study behaviour change across different generations and in fact Qualisys is trying to do so for Gen X, Y and Z cohorts.

For instance, on cocooning, while she says it might hold true for one set of people, another set may be facing extreme withdrawal symptoms and would like to fly out of the nest, and experiment as much as possible.

Agrees Jessie Paul, CEO, Paul Writer, a marketing consultancy. She says while fear could rule one set’s purchase decisions, another will be driven by FOMO — fear of missing out — and want to pack as many experiences as possible driven by the ‘what if I die soon’ feeling. “Also we might see more risky behaviour financially, driven by a ‘what have I got to lose’ feeling,” she argues.

On the whole, however, Paul says we are likely to see typical recession behaviour — postponement of non-essentials, holidays, trading down. “The length of the downturn is not known, so people will want to conserve cash and focus on survival.”

Her advice is that marketers should focus on lower transaction sizes, deferred payment schemes, smaller pack sizes, insurance against non-payment, and messages of safety — emotional, financial and physical.

The Accenture report too has recommendations for businesses on navigating post Covid-19 behaviour. For instance, on postponement of purchase decisions, it says an end-to-end customer experience audit should be run and remedial plan created, and also an assessment of customer trust about product or service done. Also, since the nature of premium will change, a study needs to be done of that. Overall, it is imperative for businesses to become good listeners, learn from customers and be quick to pivot experiences boldly.

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Published on April 17, 2020
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