The places consumers will go post-lockdown

Mindshare's research suggests Canadians will be in no rush to return to malls and sporting events.

Mindshare has conducted its sixth wave of weekly COVID-related research to get an idea of how Canadians are feeling during the pandemic. This newest release also takes a look into what Canadians are anticipating for a post-COVID world, and how their expectations for brand behaviour have changed.

In the first wave of research, only 2% said they were getting information about COVID-19 from brand websites. Now, 14% say they get info from such sites. At the outset of the outbreak, only a quarter of Canadians could name brands that were involved in COVID-19 relief; for the last three weeks, Mindshare’s research has shown that number has levelled off to just under half.

Canadians do expect different brands to respond differently. Mindshare has found that Canadians believe it is most appropriate for pharma, health, utility, food and financial brands to do things related to COVID-19; retail, beverage, auto, luxury and candy brands are at the bottom of the list. For the brands that are lower on the list, Canadians expect them to simply advocate for workers; for those higher on the list, they expect both donations and content to keep them entertained or informed.

Even though research has shown that frequency of shopping trips has gone down and basket size has gone up, Mindshare found that what Canadians are buying has been largely unchanged since the start of the pandemic. Roughly one-third of those surveyed hadn’t bought products like cleaning supplies, soap and paper products since the outbreak began; one-fifth haven’t bought snacks, frozen or packaged food.

Outside of grocery, the research found that there is something of a generational divide with the products consumers are spending on. Younger consumers are buying products the make staying at home easier, with Gen Z over-indexing on buying board games and crafting supplies, and Millennials buying thing for children and working from home (and both buying workout gear). Older consumers are making more “practical” purchases, such as stocking up on food and medications.

Only 40% of Canadians say they are likely to try new products during the pandemic, with 39% saying they are willing to try new services, far lower than respondents who said the same in the U.S. Furthermore, only 35% say they “miss” brands they’ve been unable to buy due to shortages.

While Canadians aren’t exactly enjoying themselves during the pandemic, they’re anticipating that their return to “normal” life may be more gradual and cautious, especially when it comes to high-occupancy, advertiser-friendly occassions like movies, concerts and sporting events.

Mindshare found that Canadians are the most scared now than in the weeks before, with 57% saying they feel worried, 49% feel anxious and 43% feel stressed. Meanwhile, positive emotions, which at one point looked promising, have stayed low; only 21% report feeling prepared, 20% feeling hopeful and 16% feeling calm. Women over-index on more negative emotions, while men over-index on emotions like confidence and calmness. Gen Z was the generation that reported feeling the most stressed.

Some of Canadians’ biggest concerns include the global and national economy (which both outrank the worry of getting sick), their personal finances and getting essential supplies. However, very few Canadians are worried that their children are spending too much time consuming media.

Mindshare also added new emotions to its research series. Nearly one-quarter of Canadians report some degree of tedium. Additionally, 18% report feeling lonely, and 16% say they feel angry.

While emotions and worries do differ slightly across generations, most miss the same things – going to the movies, going to the mall, travelling and simply running errands. Gen Z misses going to the movies the most. But that doesn’t mean they’ll all rush out once restrictions are lifted. Only 7% of respondents said they would go to the movies “as soon as restrictions are lifted.” Most said they would likely go out within one month. The biggest thing Canadians want to do once restrictions lift is to simply see the people they love, with 28% saying they’ll do so immediately and 25% saying they will do so within one to two weeks.

Retail stores and malls appear to be the next biggest thing people plan to visit once restrictions lift, but only 16% say they’ll do so immediately. Restaurants and bars are also a high priority but it’s likely that people will ease in after a few weeks than go out right away. Sports, concerts and live events are one of the least likely activities people plan to indulge on, even after a month of restrictions lifting. Only 7% say they’ll go to a sporting event and 5% say they’ll go to a concert or live event immediately; only 11% and 9%, respectively, say they will attend such events within one month.

Although many Canadians want a return to “normal,” 62% believe physical distancing orders should not be lifted anytime soon.

With files from Josh Kolm. A different version of this story originally appeared on Media in Canada.