The world seems to be on pause in the midst of the covid-19 viral crisis. As more data and information is shared, we are only now starting to get a look at the level of impact and change the world is going to have to implement resulting from the measures being taken to cope. This Blog post isn’t about bad news or conjecture about the virus itself. This is about the permanent changes this worldwide event is shaping and how we believe they will effect audience/consumer mindset, priorities and behaviors going forward.
Any global event with the impact level of this outbreak, always creates immediate and lasting behavioral changes.
The great depression and WW2 shaped a frugality and sense of social responsibility that defined the great generation. 9-11 made large parts of the US population willing to give up certain freedoms and lean more towards nationalism in hopes of feeling safe once again. Covid-19 is just such an event that shakes what is “normal” to its core and results in a rapid adaptation in the short term that introduces new behaviors that settle in for the long term.
We are in the midst of immediate and tectonic ideological, social and behavioral change.
As a Meta-Story consultancy, we research to discover the narratives that signal human change (what people want, why they want it, how they are thinking about changing).
I wanted to share with you some of what we believe will be some level of permanent changes in audience/consumer behaviors based on what we know and what we are seeing/hearing.
These changes will emerge rapidly and effect our collective stories, what we expect of each other as neighbors and citizens, how we look at and to authority, and how, what, when and why we buy.
Here’s the topline of some of the new behaviors we believe will immediately be at play:
Direct-2-Me – This is one of the biggest and fastest changes we’re seeing. People don’t want their lives to get smaller or less interesting/useful. In the short terms, there is a huge move to purchasing online. Amazon is adding 100K new employees (they recognize once this resets to the new levels, it won’t drop much afterwards). Convenience and new innovative ideas being implemented in Direct services are intended to help us keep going and ultimately to feel safe. Some companies that are smart, and moving with great speed to implement change, are at the forefront of the instant adaptation. Some car retailers have adjusted their model already to include live online tours and digital personal salespersons who will deliver your car in person to your home. This works during the virus but this is also amazingly great new levels of customer service. Direct-to-consumer was seen as the future and today it has become the now. Brick and mortar will have to sort out the impact of what promises to be a long period of social distancing (estimated at 12 to 18 months). That is a long time during which online habits will settle permenantly into place.
Social conscience – Overnight, having consideration for the well-being of others has been shown to be critical to everyone’s health and well-being. Millennials/Gen-Z we’re already heading in this direction with a stronger sense of local and global community. Expect to see real and immediate reward or decline for companies and institutions who don’t step up and demonstrate a permanent and demonstrable care for the broader community. It’s not a “warm and fuzzy” nice-to-have anymore.
Smart again – Overnight, everyone is looking for real, well researched, intelligent, solutions to help solve this problem. The slow response from many agencies and governments around the world has ignited a real concern (even anger in some cases). Across most audiences we see a focus on smart people with decision-making power as the key to how confident or anxious people feel. This “reset” in valuing smart people will likely catch fire into various political battles but underlying it all is the general population’s loss of trust in the smarts of the system. Expect to see a groundswell of drive to fix that at all levels that will likely flow beyond government into many parts of daily life.
Small home, big life – we’ve seen this trend happening with Millennials for several years now and it has just gone into hyper drive. Millennials are being hit for the second time by a drop in employment and a coming recession (finishing college and now starting families). Multiple incomes are needed to have a home. Multiple generations are moving in with each other to make ends meet. The family focus is on making the home as multi-purpose as possible and each person claims a space in that small home. Breadth and diversity of activities, content, and more are what makes this work and not become suffocating. Goodbye McMansions. Hello smaller, more space-efficient homes, that often rented/leased or owned by parents/grandparents. Tightening of available funds and income will certainly slow home sales.
Gig is Big – The need to feel you have enough control over your sources of income to have some safety in the event of a big employment problem (like Covid) is fueling what was already a trend. For those who have skills and talents, expect to see second and even third income streams being built using those abilities. More small businesses from home. More artisanal products and services. More high-touch small business starts. Finding ways to support/enable this move and/or thinking more personal/artisanal is the key to meeting a lot of the audience where they are already going.
Crafty – Shopping, going to dinners, concerts, and more are all on hold and will likely be disrupted for much longer than a few weeks. Being at home so much more means people are looking for what they can do that is interesting and makes them feel good. We’re seeing evidence that part of the answer is a move towards really leaning into hobbies or projects you’ve always wanted to do. (One example of this is local sewing machine sales stores are seeing a big boom). Expect this to be a lasting change because once you invest in tools and craft supplies, they are in the house and ready to go.
I-teacher – For much of the world, this rolling quarantine has happened during the school year for their children. Schools have closed and are likely to remain closed for the remainder of the school year. Parents and home caregivers are being asked to help the students continue in their studies digitally/remotely from home. This is a new role for most parents and one that will be around for a while. Like all new skills, once parents engage with their kids in doing this, many will become more competent at being involved with their child’s education. Expect to see a permanent rise in parental interest in that involvement and a newfound appetite for services and products that support their involvement and/or help to make them good at educating/participating with their child.
There’s lots more that is emerging and more rolling effects and trends developing. We’ll keep posting what we believe we are seeing. I hope some of you will read this and be amongst those leaders who can move quickly to get ahead of this massive and immediate step-change and be of service in the ways the worldwide community is now seeking. The “new normal” everyone is reporting is not the measures immediately taken but more about what we all decide we want to do to bring our lives back into balance, safety and happiness beyond this global event.