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The Essential Guide to Post–Covid-19 Consumers

Global interviews reveal what’s on consumers’ minds, with lessons for businesses.


The Essential Guide to Post–Covid-19 Consumers

On the last day of 2019, the Chinese government reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan. By April 2020, one-third of the world’s population was in some form of lockdown because of the coronavirus.

Bain & Company wanted to find out what recent life has felt like to consumers. How are they adapting?

Over three weeks, we conducted interviews with 162 people in seven countries. The short videos here feature some of their responses.

People told us about losing loved ones, recovering from illness and worrying for their children’s future. Some had lost their jobs, some were furloughed and most were running households on reduced income. Many people were feeling isolated yet hesitant to leave their homes. Almost everyone longed for their family, friends and freedoms.

Yet they are getting by―and some were even thriving―under truly stressful circumstances. They are reflecting and reevaluating many aspects of their lives, and reconsidering what is truly essential.

To stay relevant, companies need to understand their consumers’ priorities and address them. As governments start to lift restrictions, businesses must stay close to consumers, watching and listening for how their priorities and behaviors evolve. Many people will remain deeply cautious about returning to activities that involve human proximity, especially if new cases flare up again. We call this period of uncertainty “the great reluctance.”

Here is a summary of our interview findings.

1. People want to feel less anxious

How businesses can respond:

  • Reduce barriers to entry.
    • Provide guarantees, risk-free trials, and flexible propositions and payment terms.
  • Make safety measures visible.
  • Design safe, seamless online journeys.
  • Emphasize the human touch.
    • Empower employees to make the right decisions.
    • Earn long-term loyalty with flexibility and empathy.

2. People are more mindful of their spending, reflecting on what is essential and what is frivolous

How businesses can respond:

  • Keep close to evolving consumers.
    • For price-sensitive customers, consider how to make offerings more affordable.
    • For those seeking high quality, deliver a more premium experience.
  • Make products easy and convenient to access.
    • Curate your propositions.
    • Simplify the purchasing journey.
  • Respect consumers’ time.
    • Minimize their tasks when shopping and using products.

3. People are seeking a more balanced, healthy lifestyle

How businesses can respond:

  • Find your role in helping consumers make informed decisions about health and well-being.
  • Be mindful of mental health.
    • Ask consumers how they’re getting on.
    • Ask how you can help.
  • Remember that acts of kindness matter.
    • Care packs, check-in calls and unexpected discounts can help customers feel a bit better.

4. People want to feel more connected

How businesses can respond:

  • Be more shareable.
    • Evolve your propositions so people can enjoy them together.
  • Focus on local.
    • Foster pride, community and connection.
  • Embrace the consumer base.
    • Create experiences they can enjoy at home.
    • Invite them to collaborate on designing the next iteration of your business.

5. People are seeking out kindness and purpose

How businesses can respond:

  • Do well by doing good.
    • Provide tools for purposeful purchasing, such as reusable products or “buy one, give one” offers.
  • Help people plan.
    • Create flexible waiting lists, allowing people to wait in line digitally for physical experiences.
    • Encourage pioneers of the post-Covid world―the people who are more keen to get out into physical experiences.
  • Take a stand on inclusivity.
    • Do right by staff and customers.
    • Align with what’s essential in their minds to help earn their loyalty.
    • Be proactive to create a better, fairer world.

Nobody knows whether these emerging priorities will stand the test of time. However, they are here now and look poised to endure for the medium term. By refocusing on what matters most to consumers today, companies will have the best chance of post-Covid success.

Related Insights


The global Covid-19 pandemic has extracted a terrible human toll and spurred sweeping changes in the world economy. Across industries, executives have begun reassessing their strategies and repositioning their companies to thrive now and in the world beyond coronavirus.

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