“When will things get back to normal?”
“When will life go back to the way it was?”
These are the questions our teenagers keep asking. I imagine these questions have been asked in many households around the world.
In mid-March when stay-at-home orders started being issued and life began to change for many Americans, there was a hope that in a couple of weeks this would be behind us, and life would return to the way it was (normal). However, two months later the world has not returned back to normal. In fact, normal feels like a distant memory and a place we may never revisit. After several weeks of staying at home, reading and pondering, I am asking new questions.
“What will the world look like when this pandemic is over?”
“What stages or phases will the world go through in getting to a new normal?”
“What will be the new normal?”
“When will we know we’re there?”
I think all of us will agree that this pandemic has changed the world in which we live. For example, social distance was not even in our vocabulary last year; now it is something we are practicing. What we are less certain of are the secondary and tertiary effects these changes will have on society and even ourselves. The reality is these changes are also transforming each of us in ways we may not yet perceive. They say it takes three weeks to develop a new habit. We are all forming new habits that will shape us.
How each of us emerge from this pandemic and how we choose to interact with the world that awaits us will differ for each person. However, there are some key drivers that will influence our behaviors.
A person’s desire is a strong motivator for behavior. Even though a person may believe there are risks, their desire to do something may outweigh the risks they perceive. For example, someone may really miss going to the beach and now that beaches are open, they may be willing to go even though there could be crowds of people.
Following the Crowd
We are social creatures, so solitary existence is not normal. We also tend to follow group behavior.
Some are cautious. There is a sentiment that some people are waiting to see what happens. They want to see what the opening of states does to the numbers of active infections.
As we see others start to go out more, it will cause FOMO (fear of missing out) and create subtle pressure to want to go out more too. Others might feel peer pressure to return to outside life.
A person’s financial situation will have significant influence in their behaviors. A loss in income or a fear of a loss in income will certainly affect spending patterns. The need to go earn a living may even cause some to risk greater exposure to catching the virus because they have to make ends meet.
In general, how much risk is a person willing to accept? I have noticed in my conversations with a variety of people the differing levels of tolerance for risk. One day my wife summed it up this way as we were discussing (arguing) over whether we would get a takeout pizza. “Out there is Corona, in here no Corona,” she insisted as her argument for almost zero risk in cooking at home versus getting takeout. My wife is very risk averse in general in life; whereas, I tend to be more willing to tolerate moderate amounts of risk. We ended up ordering pizza, and she thankfully is still coronavirus free.
Perceived Risk of Contracting Covid-19
This could be influenced by many factors such as where does one live (e.g., region of the country, urban environment, rural environment), number of cases in one’s community and one’s daily routine (e.g., work environment).
Underlying Health Conditions
As I think about myself, I am not aware of any underlying health conditions that could negatively impact me if I developed Covid-19. However, I have two family members who have pre-existing conditions that could create complications if they were to develop a severe case. As a result, their health conditions have influenced how our family is managing our outings.
Personal Experiences with Coronavirus
A person may know of someone that contracted Covid-19 and had a mild reaction and, therefore, not be very concerned for his or her personal health. On the other hand, one may know of someone that died from Covid-19 and, as a result, is very concerned about his or her personal health.
One that has fully recovered from the virus may believe they have nothing to be concerned about going forward regarding Covid-19. As a result, they may be seeking to get back to the way things were or perhaps they can empathize with those who are concerned about contracting the virus.
The quarantine experience has probably caused all of us to go without a brand, product or service we regularly used due to lack of availability or affordability. In doing so, we most likely made some type of substitution or we did without. For example, movie theaters have been closed, so to satisfy entertainment needs maybe someone subscribed to a new streaming service. Some may find there are brands, products or services they can live without. Others will discover new brands in which they develop long-term loyalties.
Online grocery shopping has seen explosive growth since the start of the pandemic. Online grocery store visits were up 162% in March 2020 versus March 2019. The trend towards more people shopping online for groceries was already in place, but the pandemic certainly accelerated the pace of trial. How many people will adopt this as their new grocery shopping habit? It may not be for all of their grocery purchases, but will it be at least one more trip per month than they were previously doing? Many have come to value the convenience, time-savings and reduced spending by shopping online.
Beliefs about Coronavirus
There are a wide variety of beliefs about COVID-19 circulating throughout our society. These beliefs could impact a person’s willingness or desire to go out into public and the actions they take while there. Some think that COVID-19 only affects those who are elderly or who have pre-existing conditions, and therefore, they do not believe that it will infect them or impact them if they do become infected. Others believe that the number of people infected or killed by COVID-19 have been inflated by the media or government. A few even believe that coronavirus is a flat out hoax.
Predicting and modeling consumer behavior is difficult in normal times; trying to do so in a pandemic is even more complex. I am sure there are additional considerations to these 10 that I have not thought of. And as the pandemic continues to unfold, there will probably be new considerations we are not even aware of today.
We would certainly welcome an opportunity to engage with you about how to have conversations with your target audience to help you learn what is on their mind and what may drive their behaviors.