In just a few months, a tiny virus has had a colossal impact.

Consumers around the world have seen their world change, and Mintel has been monitoring and measuring the impact this has had on their mood and their behaviour. To access their mood, Mintel has been tracking consumer sentiment globally, to gain a sense of the fear of the virus itself, but also its impact on their lifestyles and view of the future, including spending priorities and concerns about the wider economy. Using Mintel’s benchmark Global Consumer data from December 2019 as a starting point, we measured how consumers went through different stages of anxiety during the early stages of the pandemic – from the Fear stage, through Concern and into a more Rational stage as people adapted to the ‘Next Normal’.

As we only have data tracked in Australia, so the trends we observed are backed with Australia data only. However, we also see very similar trends happening in New Zealand.

Tracking Australian consumers, Mintel found that the initial response during the Fear stage was to focus on fitness, nutrition and communication – to better defend against the virus itself, and keep abreast of what was going on, and gain facts on the right response. Playfulness was also a response, as people countered the fear as best they could.

The Concern stage saw Australians focus more on their psychological well being, as they began to deal with the realities of longer term lockdown. The lockdown also had other effects. Consumers sought solace in nostalgia – products and brands from happier times. They began seeking more ethical behaviour for brands – to act for the better good of their communities, rather than just profit. They also began to adapt to a new kind of convenience, one less focused on speed of delivery, and more on gaining better guidance from brands as to the best product suited to their specific needs, and promising the results they demand.

The Rational stage saw a continued focus on all the pillars of wellbeing, and those areas of focus noted above. But a new set of priorities came to bear as people adapted to the ‘Next Normal’. Australians became much more community focused, as they sought to build mutual self-help to get through the crisis, as well as more local outlook, supporting local businesses, economies and jobs. People were not just expecting each other to ‘muck in’ to help their local communities, but also expected brands to put some effort into giving a helping hand to those communities in which they are active, and not just to profit from them.

In the Rational stage, Australians were able to focus less on fear of COVID-19, and shift their concern to the ailing economy. According to Mintel’s Asia-Pacific Economic Outlook Post-COVID, in July 2020, spending among Australians tightened for all but essential goods (in-home food, drinks and household care), while concern had grown in regard to the state of the economy and threats of growing unemployment. Australians are not panicking though. They are less pessimistic than consumers in many other markets in Asia-Pacific, and they are still spending – increasingly on home and garden, for instance, as they look to improve the home environment they have been forced to spend so much time living in.

Despite some gloomy immediate data, Mintel remains optimistic. COVID-19 will recede, and a vaccine is hopefully on the horizon. The economy will pick up. But the world has changed, and we all need to adapt to the ‘Next Normal’ that has arrived. Consumers and their needs and desires have also changed, and only data (such as Mintel generates) can give us the rational facts about what consumers now want, and why.

Matthew Crabbe, Mintel APAC Trends Director

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