Welcome to my weekly series, looking at the key data sources I share internally each week to support our agency leads in developing context-relevant strategies and campaigns.  For a few weeks now, we have seen data sets pointing toward many audiences being ready for a new discussion (whether that be “the” or “a” new normal) and this week we are starting to see more data which explores what that might look like. As noted, this is only ever a snapshot, but I hope a valuable one. I welcome questions and suggestions about this data and/or other sources so do get in touch at kate.gomes@hkstrategies.com

Insight 1: consumers are getting more specific about the various phases of return to a new normal (Kantar) but cleaning and safety remain priorities throughout (Kantar, McKinsey)

Kantar US argues that here will be four phases in our return to normal relationships with commerce

  1. Phase 1: Acute Non-Normal (now to early summer) – social anxiety is high, people remain very focussed on safety and staying at home with resultant impacts for eCommerce
  2. Phase 2: Semi Normal (early summer to autumn) – reopening is underway but inconsistent, c.30% of people return to shops, safety becomes the in-store focus
  3. Phase 3: New Normal (winter 2020 to spring 2021) – treatments are underway (maybe a vaccine), retailers are managing excess inventory, consumers are thrifty with pockets of increased spend, they are looking for positivity
  4. Phase 4: Totally Normal (late spring 2021 to summer 2021) – viable and ample vaccine, consumers return to stores with new expectations, focus on cleanliness and safety

(Kantar, Post-Covid Commerce 2020)


What does this mean for communicators? Consumers will have different priorities and expectations at each stage. Messaging hierarchy and tone will need to reflect this to engage them effectively. But messaging on cleanliness and safety is here to stay – this should be integrated into your normal message structure if it isn’t already.

Insight 2: it is becoming clearer which areas of life we want to rebound most quickly and which COVID-era changes may be sticky (Kantar, McKinsey, WEF/JD)

We are desperate for a return to social activities.  Kantar has studied what people are most looking forward to returning to since the first week of the pandemic, and excitement to see family, have social time with friends, attend live music and travel have seen an over 1,000% increase.  We have far less excitement for a return to consumer activities.  Eating out has dropped from 2nd to 8th place over the course of the pandemic, as we get more and more food delivered, and shopping has dropped 3 places over this period.


McKinsey data supports the idea that our consumer expectations are changing.  Specifically, for retail banking, it sees a trend towards digital banking across age ranges, which is not expected to abate.


Early data out of China (from JD.com, published by WEF) shows a significant increase in ongoing eCommerce, despite a significant decline in overall retail spend.

“In the first four months of this year, China’s total retail sales of consumer goods amounted to RMB10.68 trillion ($1.5 trillion), a decrease of 16.2% compared with the same period last year, while sales of online retail reached RMB2.56 trillion ($360 billion), an increase of 8.6%.”


What does this mean for communicators? Human contact is important, but maybe not for purchasing. We should recalibrate consumer product marketing, positioning product as part of collective experience (shoes for team sports, drinks for parties) and accept that many online purchasing (as opposed to experiential) behaviours are likely to stick.

Insight 3: we are starting to think about personal and national investment during recovery (McKinsey, Ipsos)

Consumer spend is correlated with optimism.  We are willing to spend more when we feel confident about our natural recovery.


And globally we are unsure on whether business aid and economic stimulus should be contingent on greening behaviours.


What does this mean for communicators?  Scale, as well as area, of consumer spend is a contingent or personal point of view. Communicators should be ready to respond to waves of spend and restraint as our feelings rapidly shift in this new environment.