Written by Ayeni Adekunle, BHM CEO.
It’s usually difficult to discuss ‘consumers’ in generic terms. Because the psychology shifts as you move from one sector to another; from one demographic and psychographic to the other. To undertake a one-size-fits-all journey is to, in Nigerian pop culture parlance, sleep on a bicycle.
But there are exceptions, as demonstrated by the events of the past year. Since the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11, 2020, every reasonable citizen, consumer if you would, has been preoccupied with staying healthy and alive, embracing virtual work and play, seeking ways to keep earning, prioritizing food and shelter, and owning a collection of masks.
Universities have mostly taken courses online, most jobs have become remote where practicable, music and film entertainment have boomed on apps and TV, football is learning how to create a great experience without live stadium fans, social media use and gaming have grown, even as we have seen a tremendous increase in spousal abuse, mental health issues, anxiety, and other downsides.
It’s the first time in my career I can confidently say most consumers are expected to think and act in related ways, no matter the geography, industry or demography. Family values are high, almost everyone’s showing love and accepting to be loved; many can relate with personal loss; even as jobs are either lost or hanging by the thread. In most cities around the world, fewer and fewer people are sitting in traffic to and fro work, the tubes are empty, malls closed, and no one is hosting a festival.
So what are consumers doing? Living on their devices mostly. Smartphones, television, tablets, radio, and the people that live inside them. People are spending more time at home, less time traveling or transiting. And those who were late to social media, gaming, series, and virtual meetings have since found their way in.
The vaccine will help, hoping it reaches everyone within 12 to 24 months. But we should not expect post-pandemic behaviour to change drastically.
What then, should we expect?
Well, the pandemic has opened our eyes to what’s really important. Before March 2020, we couldn’t pause for a minute. Now, we’ve seen that it’s actually possible to stop and smell the flowers. More consumers, especially those between the ages of 18 and 45, will prioritize convenience and safety over a lot of things; and they will have no care for organisations that won’t allow them lifestyle and career flexibilities. They’ll be intentional about brands and products too, patronising and advocating only for those whose purpose aligns with their interests.
Who will take their time and money?
We should expect a boom in health and fitness, in technology, spirituality, and entertainment. And the concept of value over brand could become mainstream, seeing many abandon expensive, crowded cities for the outskirts, or small towns. It will be the same for cars and food and education; as consumers practice what the first pandemic in one hundred plus years has taught them.
Brands, organisations, and governments would be wise to enable, even accelerate this, instead of fighting it. And we all should be the better for it.