The consumer will never be the same again.” This is the thrust of most research and opinion articles on how consumer behavior will unfold in the wake of the pandemic. If you go by the average item, you can’t help but conclude that physical retail can pack. Still, healthy skepticism is in order here. Consumer psychologists know that physical retail is anything but dead.
If you take a quick tour of Google, you will generally come across the following predictions:
- Consumers will think about their health more than ever
- Product preferences will shift towards more meaningful and essential consumption
- People don’t want to come together in large groups anymore
The problem with the above predictions? They follow from classic research methods that consciously ask consumers how they expect to act after the corona crisis. Problem: such a VP Engineering Email Lists interpretation of one’s own behavior is already a difficult exercise in normal times. We can hardly explain where our preference for a particular soft drink brand comes from, let alone how an exceptional global health crisis will change our long-term preferences and habits.
We don’t do what we say and we don’t say what we do.
So asking consumers questions tells us very little. It is more interesting to look at actual behaviour.
From a behavioral perspective, we see a completely different picture. We indicate that we live healthier, but it turns out that over the entire year 2020 we have downed 14% more glasses of alcohol . We indicate that we are focusing more on meaningful products, but within the overall declining car sales we saw the relative demand for luxury cars increase last year. In short, we don’t do what we say and we don’t say what we do.
Our behavior cannot be explained rationally. How then?
1. Consumer behavior after corona: the rebound effect
We find it difficult to break free from our current mindset when we reflect on past and future situations. Psychologists call this the projection bias . This means that during the lockdown period we mainly view the future from those glasses, without thinking about the fact that our mindset is also fluid.
If you look at actual behavior, you see almost an entirely reverse effect occurring: a social rebound effect. What we lack now, we will want back to a greater extent.