Changing attitudes in challenging times

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07 May 2020
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Changing attitudes in challenging times

Website use in the current uneasy climate is altering. People are scared, consumers are spending differently and it’s all changed. Here at The User Story we use psychology as part of our daily process. We analyse, we debate, we test. We decided to take a look at the data.

The proof is in the figures

No matter how effective your website, the fact that people do behave differently when they’re unsure, cautious or just downright scared has an effect on the way that your consumers will react. And, we’re not the only people to have noticed this phenomenon. The online magazine Econsultancy has been carrying out some number crunching about how the pandemic has affected businesses.

  • Only 14% of UK marketing campaigns are continuing ‘as planned’
  • 69% of UK firms have seen a drop in demand for their services and products
  • The Retail Gazette shows that by March e-commerce growth had declined by 5.1% year on year

New habits for a new era

It’s not all gloom. Some sectors have noticed a growth in online sales, including most supermarkets. An article in the US magazine The Atlantic reveals that order volume for Instacart, an American home delivery service has increased by ‘50 fold’ since the start of the lockdown and the company has had to hire 300,000 new staff in a bid to cope with higher ordering volumes.

Once the public has become used to downloading apps for their shopping needs, they’re probably not going to return to a regular weekly shop on the high street or local shopping centre.

You are not alone

And, Psychology Today has also been keeping an eagle eye out for behaviour changes during the pandemic.

If you find that you’ve suddenly included more treats on your online shopping order, impulse buying is a recognised behaviour change. You might know it by the term ‘retail therapy’ - you make yourself feel better by indulging in non-essential purchases. For some consumers this relieves their stress levels and makes them feel more in control of an uncontrollable situation. Websites might find that if they include a ‘treats’ section, there will be demand for these goods.

The urge to splurge

This isn’t to say that now’s the time to splash out on a new Aston Martin, you can’t drive it anyway at the moment. But, a website offering the possibility of hiring rather than buying an Aston Martin at the end of lockdown will definitely fulfil certain customers’ wish lists. This will fall neatly into what psychologists call ‘brand related social status effect’, put in layperson’s terms - you’ll feel better about yourself and your position in society.

Facing the new world

At the beginning of the pandemic, panic buying was the new norm and crowd mentality came into play. Something along the lines of: “well, the family next door are buying whole forests of lavatory paper, we don’t want to be left out - we’d better do the same.” Now the public is becoming more accustomed to the lockdown, individual behaviours are coming to the fore and shopping habits, and web use is changing. Oh, and the shops haven’t run out of loo roll.

Of course, consumers are still using Instagram, Facebook and all other social media platforms to register trends, and according to Big Commerce, Gen Z and millenials are the ones most concerned about the pandemic. With current data, websites can adapt to their consumers’ needs and ongoing trends more easily.

We are always here to help, if you want to tweak your website or SaaS app, discuss its effectiveness or just want to talk about new trends. We are, after all, The User Story.


Celina is a good friend of The User Story, and we’d like to thank her for writing this article for us. If you’re interested in working with a fab copywriter and editor, you should get in touch with her!

Photo by Patrick Robert Doyle on Unsplash

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