Information, connection, comfort and escapism dominate consumer behaviour during COVID-19

Fresh behavioural insights from Spark Foundry point to the key consumer trends brands should be mindful of and ideally tap into

Information, connection, comfort and escapism are dominating the behaviour of Australian consumers as they strive to get through the COVID-19 crisis.

That’s the view of the team at Spark Foundry, which has collated key patterns and themes emerging across the behaviour and media habits of local consumers in order to help brands better resonate in the current context. Spark Foundry strategy director, Michelle Miroforidis, told CMO that with 35 per cent of Australians believing brands should continue advertising as normal, the agency wanted to better understand what it takes for connection to be maintained with desired audiences during this time.

Miroforidis outlined four core needs emerging over the last eight weeks through technology, media and leisure activities: Information; connection; escapism; and routine and order.

With regards to information for example, a strong driver of behaviour for all Australians has been the need to be well informed. Miroforidis noted all generations are watching more TV on broadcast channels, with news becoming the most sought-after information source during the COVID-19 crisis.

According to Global Web Index’s Coronavirus Research Report in April, Australians aged between 45-54 are consuming the most news at 35 per cent, following by Gen Z (16-24-year olds, 34 per cent). Not far behind are Boomers (55-64 years old, 28 per cent), and those aged 35-44 (25 per cent).

This rise in consumption is echoed in Nielsen’s Digital Content Ratings for March, which showed a 29 per cent leap in time spent on digital news sites and apps.

A second major driver of consumer behaviour right now is connection. “Australians have eagerly turned to new and existing technology apps to help them stay connected with friends and family,” Miroforidis commented.

“This trend is more pronounced among younger and mid-age generations, while Boomers prefer telephone calls.”

For instance, House Party, a popular video chat app designed to appeal to younger users, saw daily downloads increase by 26 times between February and March. In addition, Netflix Party, a feature available on the platform, has increased in popularity among youth audiences as it allows friends to watch the same content simultaneously while also chatting through the platform.

Connection is also the name of the game on social media platforms. Miroforidis noted research conducted by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) school of psychology’s Trish Obst, which showed consumers turning to social media in order to spread community, positive cheer and motivational spirit. This trend is most noticeable with Gen Z, with 31.5 per cent spending longer on social media than other age groups.  

While Tik Tok is the preferred Gen Z platform, millennials are more likely to turn to Instagram, with trending hashtags, #stayathome, #happyathome and #quarantine, highlighting the need to connect by sharing their experiences across social posts and videos, Miroforidis said.

“Younger generations are also sharing images of their most ‘essential items’ such as tea, wine and books to continue to outwardly reflect their identity and stay connected to their peers and social network while in isolation,” she noted.

For Miroforidis, the lesson for brands here is to recognise people’s need to feel connected to others and their sense of community.

“Fuel this need through relevant services and utility,” she advised. “Connect through positive and uplifting messages that reflect your brands’ existing purpose and tone of voice.”

The desire for practical information and connection were also raised in fresh Qualtrics survey released last week, which found Australian consumers looking to brands to share practical messaging around how they’re helping customers and the community. Key behaviours identified in that survey for increasing brand trust included taking care of employees (43 per cent), not taking advantage of the crisis (43 per cent), and taking care of customers (40 per cent).

However, the Qualtrics research showed message of hope and optimism to be having somewhat less impact with consumers. Instead, an emphasis on practicality and usefulness was proving more important.

It’s the same story from new Kantar COVID-19 Barometer research released for the period 23-28 April. This found the overload of ‘we are here to help’ messaging over the past month has now seen Australian consumers looking for more tangible actions by brands that align with their values.

Third on Spark Foundry’s top behavioural trends is ‘escapism’. “Aussies have replaced out-and-about leisure experiences which provides escapism and release with screen experiences, audio listening, positive throwbacks and creative activities,” Miroforidis continued.

Noting again Global Web Index’s Coronavirus Research Report from April, she pointed out Boomers are spending more time on hobbies, pastimes and listening to the radio. In contrast, Gen Z are consuming more online video content than ever before and spending more playing video games.

“To stay positive and give themselves something to look forward to, Aussies have been reminiscing about past trips and memories with throwback image challenges across social platforms,” Miroforidis said.

It’s also clear many of us have turned to creative pursuits such as cooking, baking, puzzles, board games and drawing. These provide much-needed distractions and “a feeling of resourcefulness through the act of creating”, Miroforidis said.

The considerations for brands here is how they can play an active role in the home economy by facilitating people’s need to escape.

“Deliver creative inspiration and useful how-to content to keep them entertained and occupied,” Miroforidis advised. “Continue to provide people’s favourite leisure experiences, such as live sport and live music events, in new formats and new ways.”

Last on Spark Foundry’s behavioural list is the need for routine and comfort. For one, exercising is a core part of the Australian lifestyle and many consumers have endeavoured to create their own home gyms or signed up to fitness apps like Sweat and Centr in response.

According to Google Trends data, search terms relating to workout routines were up by 92 per cent between 14 – 17 March. News Corp also reported health content page views increased by 105 per cent, while fitness content consumption was up 186 per cent in March.

Outside of fitness, “the cherished morning coffee moment, afternoon tea break and Friday drink continue to be sacred weekly rituals for all Australians,” Miroforidis said.

“Brands can have a role to play in helping people celebrate everyday milestones. Create a sense of comfort and reassurance by helping people celebrate daily and weekly rituals,” she recommended.

“Recognise consumers’ need for stability through tone-appropriate messages and content.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.

 

 

 

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