COVID-19 has changed consumer behaviour. Here are five customer types your business needs to understand

woman wearing face mask shopping covid-19

Source: Unsplash/Arturo Rey

Thanks to COVID-19, people are living differently with more specific motivations and needs. The pandemic has affected how we think, how we work, where we make purchases and how we make those purchases. 

The chances are that your business’ customer personas have already changed. So to stay relevant you need to be aware of these changes and understand your consumers’ new priorities and purchase behaviour. 

Here are five types of consumers you need to understand.

Worrisome thinkers 

Fear is running high with this group as they’re rightfully aware and worried about COVID-19. Their families, friends and the long-term effects of COVID-19 are constantly at the forefront of their minds while they remain pessimistic about the future. They are likely to be anxious and reactionary with hyper-awareness about getting sick from everyday activities. Because of this, these consumers have an increased focus on health and are likely to be carrying spare masks in their bags, taking steps to avoid germs and engaging in self-care measures to prevent illness.

These consumers prioritise cleaning, pharmaceuticals and staple products with 35% of people saving and stockpiling. According to The Panic Index, these people have also increased their consumption of personal hygiene products by up to 50%. 

When making purchases, they want to be a touchless digital customer and have likely switched to digital shopping. As risk-averse people, they may be lacking the desire to venture out of their local community and prefer to fulfil their day to day needs closer to home. This means they’re using less shared or public transport, taking up remote working or learning opportunities and are adopting telemedicine and virtual meetings. You’ll find this group is also financially conservative and highly informed on national and international news cycles. 

Be sure to check in with this customer through a simple call or email, this may mean the world to them and is likely to increase their loyalty. You can reduce barriers to entry by providing guarantees, making safety measures visible and providing opportunities for online consultations. 

Under pressure 

We share empathy with this group as they’re likely hardest hit by the pandemic. The sudden closure of many Australian businesses may see them without work either temporarily or permanently, using their paid time off or spending countless hours in isolation. These people will be feeling the social and economic impact of the pandemic at a very personal and local level as they’re forced to focus on their home life. While trying to get back on their feet, this group may also be struggling with family and working situations blending into one. 

Because of this, they are likely concerned with their finances first and their well-being second. According to Forbes, 19% of people are worried about running out of money during the pandemic with 27% reducing spending across all categories. This will cause them to think twice about what they spend their money on, encouraging them to focus on personal finances and budgeting. Ultimately, this group is looking to ease financial anxiety by spending less across all categories and only buying essential items such as hygiene, cleaning and staple products. 

It’s best to engage this group by providing flexible payment terms, offering risk-free trials and considering how to make products or services more affordable. Choose the right emotional response to meet the customers’ circumstances by reaching out with care packages, check-in calls and unexpected discounts. 

Back to basics 

This group has gladly pressed the pause button on normal life and is looking for more ways to feel and do good. They’re seeking out kindness and purpose in everyday activities whether that’s spending more time with family, connecting with their community or checking in on neighbours. 

They’re looking to lead a less consumerist lifestyle post-pandemic with the EY Index showing that a third of consumers plan to reappraise the things they value most and not take certain things for granted. They’re also making deep spending cuts and considering where their money should and shouldn’t be spent. You will find that this group may be reconsidering which items are genuine must-haves and are deprioritising their status symbols. They’re likely to be showing a greater preference for local brands, shopping more consciously and choosing more sustainable options.

Since considering what impact their consumerism has, 62% say they would be more likely to purchase from companies that they feel are doing good for society. Ultimately, this group is striping away complexities and signalling a shift back to basics! 

COVID-19 has given these people an opportunity to forgo the dreaded commute and use the additional time to exercise, bake, read and get crafty. By embracing these simpler pleasures in life, they’re considering what really matters and it may impact how they’ll spend their time long-term. 

You could choose to connect with this group by using localised marketing strategies and opting for messaging that focuses on community and connection. Provide this group with easily accessible tools and resources to opt for purposeful purchasing that has positive long-term benefits for their wallet and the environment. 

Positive opportunists 

We all know someone who has taken the pandemic by the horns and seen it as an opportunity to seek a more balanced, healthy lifestyle. These people have taken the time to reflect after the shock of the pandemic, chosen not to take simple things for granted and likely slowed the pace of their lives. They may have changed their daily routine and adopted a focus on physical and mental health using on-demand wellbeing tools. 

Despite being of middle to high income, they might also be more mindful of their spending habits. After mulling over what expenses are essential or frivolous, they’re willing to spend more in areas that are important to them. They’re likely to be relatively optimistic despite a strong belief that a global recession is coming, they’re responding by supporting local  businesses and brands and are doing their bit to ensure every dollar spent goes to those nearby. In a recently released KPMG International study entitled Consumers and the New Reality, 85% of Australians said they would be willing to pay more for locally sourced groceries and 90% responded positively for non-grocery items. 

As early adopters of a cashless society, you can please these consumers by delivering a premium and seamless purchasing experience. We recommend even inviting them to collaborate with you on designing the next iteration of your business as it changes due to COVID-19. 

Resilient returners 

This group of people are mostly worried about their loss of freedom and just want to return to the way things were as quickly as possible. Overall, they’re the least concerned about the pandemic and are likely healthy with a strong support system. Their daily lives were never really affected and as a result, they’ve remained indifferent and continued with business as usual, although they’re concerned about what impact people stockpiling will have on them.

This group is lucky enough to have likely worked their regular hours with their usual salary but may have switched to working from home temporarily. According to EY Global, 26% of people are staying calm and carrying on with largely unchanged spending habits. 

With a “she’ll be right” attitude, this group are the least informed of all consumers and are least likely to be aware of, or comply with, the government’s advice. You’ll probably find these consumers asking if they really need to wear a mask and check-in when shopping in bricks and mortar stores. 

With restrictions in place, this group wants to feel more socially connected and has nostalgia for a more normal time in our lives. As such, they’re looking for a cure for their boredom. They may be embracing technology more than ever and are open to interacting with businesses online, opening up a wider digital landscape. 

Your business may need to clearly set expectations and boundaries, so people know what to expect and there’s less room for confrontation. Try creating experiences for these consumers to enjoy at home while they wait for things to return to normal. When things do start to open up, encourage people that are interested to get out and enjoy physical experiences but also offer flexible waiting lists for those that aren’t quite ready. 

Now’s the time to start thinking about how you can pivot your business and messaging to address the unique concerns of each of these types of “new” customers.


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