Which behaviours will stick, and which will subside in a world without restrictions?

This post is sponsored by Kadence International.

Understanding what represents a permanent shift in behaviour versus a temporary change is the top challenge facing marketers globally.

In a new study, Kadence Internationalwinners of MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s Consultant of the Year award, sought to understand how behaviours have changed, and to separate the long-term trends from the short-term fads. The research took place in 10 markets where the market research agency has offices: Singapore, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, the UK and the US.

Business not as usual

We asked people to imagine a world without restrictions and to consider how frequently they envisage doing certain activities. Overall, consumers don’t anticipate a return to normality. Among the respondents, 57% say they’ll be going out for drinks less than before the pandemic, and we see a similar picture when it comes to eating out (53%). 

More than half (52%) tell us they plan to use public transport less than before, enabled by more flexible working arrangements, and 51% say they’ll be physically browsing shops less frequently than before.

Understanding sticking power

When it comes to the activities that have become more prevalent during the pandemic, the vast majority of people tell us they want to keep these up. But to understand true sticking power, we combined this with other metrics. 

We explored how activities deliver on a range of factors that matter when adopting and sustaining new behaviours (for example, convenience, cost, enjoyment), and generated an index score that shows how the activities perform relative to one another.

Mapping the index score against consumer intent gives us a framework for assessing which behaviours will stick in the future, with activities falling into one of four quadrants.

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Which behaviours will stick?

The two key quadrants brands need to consider are those at the top. In the top right are key behaviours for the future. These are activities with a high perceived likelihood to continue as well as a high index score. This indicates the existing products and services are delivering against what’s important to consumers, suggesting that behaviours have become embedded. 

It’s perhaps no surprise to see shopping online and cooking from scratch in this quadrant, but learning new skills online and making an effort to create special occasions at home through food also feature, representing behaviours that are here to stay.

Arguably just as important are behaviours in the top left quadrant, such as eating healthy food, activities for mental health and streaming online video content. 

These are behaviours that consumers want to continue, but that have a low index score, suggesting that improvement is required with the current products and services in the category to see sustained behavioural change. As such, these activities represent opportunities for innovation for brands.

Which behaviours will subside?

In the short-term solutions for the COVID quadrant, we see taking domestic holidays and working from home. While working from home is perceived as time-saving and convenient, some consumers don’t find it very rewarding or enjoyable, reflecting much of the current discourse in the media about workers being zoomed out and missing social interaction. As such, flexible, rather than fully remote working, is likely to have a more lasting impact.

In our final quadrant, low potential for lasting behavioral change, we see socialising online, drinking alcohol at home and ordering takeout. The people we surveyed told us they are less likely to continue with these activities versus other behaviors in our study. What’s more, these activities don’t deliver against the attributes that drive adoption of new behaviors, suggesting their potential to present a long-term shift is limited.

To find out more about the study, including where specific behaviors fall, or how the trends mentioned in this article will evolve in future, download the full report.