This article was updated on October 26, 2021.
In some ways, Covid-19 feels like old news now that we’ve been living with it for over a year. But even if you’re tired of thinking, hearing, and reading about it all the time, it continues to have a significant impact on all areas of life. And while the change in habits of Covid consumers may not be top of the list for ways the coronavirus has changed all our lives, it’s one that matters for marketers.
Gaining an understanding of what your audience is thinking and feeling is a prerequisite for crafting campaigns that speak to them. Most marketing teams have invested a lot of time, work, and resources into understanding who your audience is and creating buyer personas to help you keep their priorities top of mind.
But while all that work is still valuable, it’s not enough on its own to continue creating persuasive marketing during the Covid era. If you’re still going off of pre-pandemic personas, your marketing won’t reflect where your audience is now. Their everyday thoughts, feelings, concerns, and priorities have changed.
5 Data-Backed Insights on Average Covid Consumers
Several organizations have conducted research studies to better understand how the habits and feelings of Covid consumers have changed in the wake of the pandemic. These are a few of the top takeaways they’ve discovered.
1. Consumers expect lifestyle changes to stick around.
The novel coronavirus has caused significant lifestyle shifts for just about everybody, and most people expect those changes to continue for months to come. A Resonate survey found that over 30% of people think it will take over a year for life to “return to normal,” and 8% think it never will. Of those more optimistic, 40% still expect to wait four months to a year.
The survey also asked consumers how likely their current retail habits were to change in the next 90 days in a number of categories—from attending a restaurant, to making a luxury purchase, to getting takeout. Across the board, the most common answer was they expected no change.
And looking beyond 90 days from now, a Zion & Zion survey found that 21% of people that have switched to using grocery delivery intend to stick with it after the pandemic ends—which is double the number of people that used it before.
2. Few will resume activities as soon as mandates lift.
Resonate also asked Covid consumers which types of activities they’ll be comfortable going back to as soon as their state lifts restrictions. With the exception of attending church, over 70% of people gave a clear no in all activities mentioned. Even with church, over half of respondents expressed discomfort.
If your business model depends on in-person gatherings, you can’t look to government mandates to determine when you can go back to your previous way of doing things. Most consumers plan to proceed with more caution than governments require.
3. Travel’s a no-go for most consumers through the rest of the year.
Bad news is nothing new for the hospitality industry at this point, and the immediate future’s not looking any brighter. While a few people in Resonate’s survey expect to take trips in the coming months—14% even anticipate doing so this summer—50% say they don’t see leisure travel happening until 2021.
Even once restrictions are lifted, in almost all travel-related categories people expressed hesitation. The main exception was traveling nearby. Covid consumers were close to evenly split at 43% a piece in whether they’ll feel comfortable making trips within their own state.
Companies in the hospitality industry can use that information—the primary audience for your campaigns in the coming months should be people in your own state looking for a respite from their homes that doesn’t require much of a trip to reach.
4. Many consumers have made brand changes they expect to stick with.
If your brand has long depended on customer loyalty, you may face a long-term challenge from the pandemic. According to research from Advantage Solutions, 55% of consumers have branched out from their formerly preferred brands since the pandemic started. In most cases, the shift was due to either shortages of the brand they usually buy, or a decision to change the retailer they shopped with.
If the switch was a one-time thing in the face of their usual product being unavailable, it wouldn’t make a difference. But 28% said they expect to make the change permanent. And Zion & Zion’s report shows even more significant results, with 53 to 70% of consumers (depending on the product type) saying they intend to stick with the new brand.
If you’ve seen a dip in sales, you’d be smart to start brainstorming ways to earn those customers back.
5. Changes in sentiment and shopping behavior aren’t uniform.
The Advantage data reveals an important point: the consumer response to Covid-19 isn’t uniform. They identified two main categories of consumers that each had markedly different habits. One category is younger, more urban, makes more, and has larger households. The other is older, more rural, and has a smaller income and household.
The answers from people in each category varied significantly in some cases. For example, 44% of people in the first category have switched food brands since the start of the pandemic, while only 17% of the second have. While most of the data we’ve addressed here provides general takeaways based on trends in the larger population, this finding provides a reminder that Covid consumers aren’t a monolith.
Gain Information About Your Audience
To supplement the data above with insights particular to your clients and prospects, do your research.
1. Analyze your data.
The easiest place to look for trends in how your audience’s behavior has changed is your own data. If you haven’t yet, do a full analysis of all your marketing and sales metrics since March. What’s changed since the novel coronavirus came onto the scene? Your data will help you gauge if any of your campaigns or content are no longer relevant to your audience’s priorities. It can provide insights into what incentives are driving conversions. Are factors like discounts, product shortages, or shorter shipping times making a difference in the actions your prospects take?
2. Perform a customer survey.
Data can tell you a lot, but it’s no substitute for hearing from your customers directly. Send them a brief survey with questions that will fill in the gaps in the data. You can get a feel for how many of your customers have been negatively impacted economically by the virus, what kind of fears and concerns they have, and what kind of resources they need from you right now.
3. Set up customer interviews.
The most valuable way to get detailed information from your audience is to set up interviews. Reach out to a number of your customers to request a meeting. Consider offering something in return to incentivize participation, like a free item or gift card. Have a list of questions prepared that cover the information you most need, so you don’t waste their time.
Use What You’ve Learned
Make updated Covid-19 personas that provide an easy shorthand to your team on what your audience is dealing with now. Create new campaigns and update old ones to better reflect the current concerns and priorities your customers are dealing with.
You can’t keep marketing to your audience as though they’re the same as they were six months ago, or as though things will be back to normal any day now. For as long as the pandemic rules our lives, your marketing should reflect where your audience is.