The consumer personas emerging from the pandemic

From the 'apprehensive' to the 'comfortable,' research from Leger and Lg2 detail the new dominant consumer segments.

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A new study by research firm Leger and agency lg2 looks at Canadian consumer habits and behaviours during the COVID-19 crisis, shedding new light on the lasting effects the pandemic will have on consumer spending.

The research forecasts that now, more than ever, Canadians will spend money more cautiously, and their personal financial situation will determine how returning to normal will look, and feel.

The research is based on a survey of more than 4,000 Canadians conducted from April 12 to 25. In a recent online presentation of the findings, Keith Barry, VP of strategy at lg2, and Christian Bourque, VP of Leger, identified the new consumer personas that have emerged during the economic and social recovery and explained how these emerging segments will impact future consumer consumption.

Below, we look at the three main personas identified in the study, which account for 68% of the Canadians surveyed: the apprehensive, the comfortable, and the self-starter.

The Apprehensive

Representing a quarter of the population, apprehensive Canadians are concerned with the risk and transmission of COVID-19, and will continue to vigilantly protect themselves from contracting the virus. Their efforts to avoid the virus include investing in their well being at home and shopping online in order to reduce human contact.

“These are the people that are coming out of this pandemic with a foot on the brake; happy that they can see their family again, but their return to the old normal in terms of social interactions, they’re not ready for that yet,” Bourque said during the presentation.

Apprehensive Canadians are expected to leave their homes less than before, and will maximize their purchases during fewer visits with higher basket sizes. According to the study, this segment doesn’t anticipate a return to normalcy very soon. Only through caution and prudence do they believe society will emerge from the pandemic.

Made up mostly of families with young children, apprehensive Canadians are unlikely to visit restaurants, movie theaters, and will continue to avoid the presence of people they don’t know.

They will continue to limit person-to-person interaction and will take advantage of in-store pickup, and use online grocery services.

“This is something to keep in mind for brands who are looking to attract parents or families,” said Barry. “Making sure that we can help people prioritize that feeling of security in whatever they’re purchasing.”

Among apprehensive Canadians, for the next few years the ideal vacation will most likely involve isolated cottage rentals.

The Comfortable

A segment described as “comfortable” has also emerged in response to pandemic lockdowns. This group tends to be 25 to 54 year olds with a higher income, and is predominantly from the west coast of Canada. These individuals are unified in their desire to embrace a balance between their work and home life.

For 21% of the population, finding comfort, stability and zen has become the obsession right now, explained Bourque. “They want to find that balance that they’ve probably sought for a lot of their professional lives but now have basically felt that they’ve found it during the pandemic. They believe they’ve changed for the better. They want to keep their new life as much as possible, and the whole thing will be about work and life balance,” he said.

The study found that this segment is not afraid of going to restaurants or seeing their family. They are more likely to take advantage of online solutions that simplify their life, such as ordering online, curbside pick up, or consulting experts online, from health professionals to financial advisors.

This segment also is more likely to enjoy online leisure activities that can be done at home, such as listening to online concerts or playing video games.

According to Bourque, the “comfortables” are seeking a slower, better life than they had before the pandemic and have made it their mission to improve their immediate living environment, sometimes through renovations. Their spending reflects that they are more interested in their communities and in supporting small businesses through buying local.

The Self-starter 

According to the study,  23% of the population identifies as a “self-starter.” Their efforts throughout the pandemic have been finding solutions to the financial impact that the pandemic has had. A lack of resources and managing their household has made them weary of their debt load.

But Bourque explained that self-starters are solution seekers. “They just basically are trying to make ends meet. I have this much money to go on for a month. I’m probably living from paycheque to paycheque. I need to make it work. I need to feed my family three meals a day. I need the couponing. I need the discounting,” he said.

Despite carefully watching their finances, this segment earning around $40,000 thousand or less per year is willing to spend money on their mental health and fulfill their desires to get away from stressful situations. For example, they have discovered boxed lunches and are shopping online for candies and coffee; they have been ordering from restaurants, consuming more alcohol and buying more lottery tickets.

And given that they are finding joy in online shopping, they will need brands’ help to remain on budget, Bourque said.