Lockdown psychology

One month into our 90-day COVID-19 lockdown and most of us are starting to find a new rhythm to work and life. 

From switching our workouts from the gym to the garage, kitting out the dining room to act as an office and classroom, or recreating our favourite restaurants at home, we are starting to come to terms with what the ‘new normal’ looks like in lockdown. 

But are we really acting like ourselves? IMPACT caught up with our consulting Behavioural Psychology Specialist, Kris White, to get to the bottom of some of our behaviours and choices during the pandemic. 

Australians have largely done a good job complying with lockdown restrictions – why do you think this is? 

Fitting in is a fundamental driver of human behaviour. We take our cues for how to behave from what we see other people do.  

Initially it took a while for people to see a critical mass of people complying with guidelines and restrictions, but once it was clear for all, it becomes the norm.  

However, we are more influenced by those we feel are similar to us – people like me who are part of our tribe. Initially as Australians we collectively banded together, but now we are seeing small groups emerging with new norms focused on ‘liberty’ and ‘defiance’.  

Supermarket meltdowns and angry social media posts appear in our newsfeeds on a daily basis.  

Why are some of us losing our cool?  

These are probably due to a heightened sense of threat and competition leading to us to be more sensitive to loss (loss aversion) and scarcity (scarcity bias).  

Additionally, we’re out of our comfort zones and in emotional ‘hot states’. Our primal nature is being triggered by Covid-19 and we are responding with our impulsive, instinctive and emotional selves and not our calmer, rational selves. Of course, all this is then being amplified by social media.  

Here’s a handy academic article on emergency purchasing decision making. 

Sales data shows that Australians have been spending big in recent weeks. The online shopping rush started with equipment to support remote working but soon spiralled out to include entertainment items and luxury purchases, such as jewellery.    

Is retail therapy real? 

My hypotheses are that some of this is stocking up hoarding, some is in response to online sales and promotions, and a large part, especially for some items, is a kind of ‘compensatory consumption’ e.g. buying products that provide comfort, nurturing, confidence or hope.  

Some research has shown that during times of financial and emotional adversity people increase consumption of ultra-premium luxury products. 

Online retailers are also experiencing higher than normal numbers of cart abandonment – where shoppers click on items to buy, but never complete the transaction. For some shoppers, the act of shopping is a habit that provides its own reward independent of making a purchase.  

Others may have gone shopping in an emotional ‘hot state’ and are then having last minute second thoughts at checkout (perhaps thinking about the unpredictable job market). Some are probably just waiting for discounts.  

To get these shoppers across the line, businesses and brands will need to connect with the mindset of customers during Covid-19, and it is not necessarily the intuitive time trodden ideas that will help 

Like to know more about the behaviour of your customers and how you can communicate better with them during COVID-19? Talk to the IMPACT team to organise a customer behaviours workshop today.  

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