Consumers are more confident using electronic devices and sharing their data after COVID-19 restrictions highlighted the benefits of technology, research by OW and gfu shows. People also now have different — and greater — expectations of corporations than before, giving consumer electronics makers new opportunities and responsibilities.
To measure these changes, Oliver Wyman and gfu jointly talked to experts, conducted secondary research, and surveyed more than 2,500 consumers in six countries: China, France, India, Germany, Russia, and the United States. They asked: Which long-term impacts did COVID-19 have on the consumers’ mindsets? And what do the changes mean for brands and manufacturers of durable products?
The responses: COVID sparked lifestyle changes in many parts of the world, most notably a work-from-home culture. This led to widening uptake and understanding of technology solutions such as videoconferencing. People became both more confident with and more aware of the electronic objects in their homes.
Another contribution came from public health programs, such as vaccinations and the subsequent corona certificates, which were often administered through smartphones. This demonstrated the benefits of sharing personal data and made people more open to it when they see a tangible benefit. More broadly, consumers appreciated how manufacturers helped cope with the pandemic and now have greater expectations for corporations’ contributions to society.
Consumers’ feelings and attitudes could be divided into five dimensions:
- Emotions: Most people are spending far more time at home, including while they work, and they have built emotional relationships with the electronic objects they work with and that surround them.
- Skills: People have become more adept at using digital systems, in particular smartphones and video conferencing.
- Trust: While concerns over privacy and data protection persist, people have become more open to sharing personal data and to signing contracts online.
- Desires: The pandemic has made people more flexible — with regards to where they work and live, as well as in their openness to pay-per-use models of product use.
- Expectations: Manufacturers were active in the pandemic response, and consumers’ expectations have risen for companies to contribute to society.
Emotions: Cocooning with our electronic companions
Most people are spending far more time at home than before the pandemic, and they expect to continue to do so. Respondents indicated an increase of 10% in the central importance of home in their lives, with the biggest rise in the US. Consumers have also built stronger emotional relationships with the objects surrounding them at home: 75% appreciate the role of electronic devices more than they did before, and 60% feel more emotionally attached to them.
Skills: Digital bootcamp for all generations
Digital technology became a larger part of everyday life during the pandemic, due to the role of everything from corona apps to video conferencing. More than half the survey respondents indicated that their appreciation of technology grew, and especially older people are now more familiar with digital devices. The leap was particularly big in India, where 69% agreed with this, as well as China, where 79% agreed, indicating the appetite for new technology in emerging markets.
Trust: Greater appreciation of the benefits of data sharing
Europeans, especially, are still concerned about privacy and data protection. But they became more open to sharing personal data during pandemic restrictions, when they used smartphones to display their vaccination status and test results to access venues and cross borders. Of all respondents, 79% said they have become more willing to share personal information, if they gain some kind of benefit as a result. Even 74% of the traditionally wary Germans agreed. At the same time, 57% of respondents felt that data protection rules make digital services more complicated. The people that most agreed with this were the Germans and Indians.
Desires: Using need not mean owning
Pandemic restrictions led to some new freedoms and flexibility, in particular in work patterns. Asked to rate how free they feel in where they work and live, scores increased in all six countries — by 10% on average and 18% in China. Germans — whose typical long-term employment has made them relatively reluctant to move — have become more mobile too, with 12% saying they feel free in their location.
Expectations: Manufacturers should solve — not create — problems
Soon after the pandemic broke out, manufacturers sprang into action. Fast-moving-goods companies used their production facilities to make masks and disinfectants, while makers of durable products started to build ventilators. Perhaps as a result, the relevance to society that consumers assign to companies has increased by an average of 11% compared to before the pandemic. Now, 82% of consumers consider companies responsible for fighting climate change and 76% for improving social justice.
What does it mean for brands and manufacturers?
In the post-pandemic world, there are now many visible, measurable behavioral changes, and it is important for companies to grasp the underlying shifts in consumer mindset. Just as the pandemic has hit global regions differently, it also had a variety of impacts on consumers’ feelings and attitudes. Brands and manufacturers have to be aware of these changes and to adjust their products, services, and marketing accordingly.
This study was conducted in collaboration with gfu, organizer of the IFA Berlin, the world's largest Consumer and Home Electronics trade fair.
You can read the full report below.
Dr. Sara Warneke and Felix Reuster also contributed to this report.