Re-opening businesses, how will our behavior change?


Institutional Communication Service

18 May 2020

The Federal authorities have decided to relax the measures enacted during the peak phase of the Covid-19 pandemic and, as of May 11, stores and restaurants will reopen, while maintaining the increased security measures. How will consumers behave? Luca M. Visconti, Professor of Marketing at the USI Institute of Marketing and Corporate Communication, shares his views on the subject in a short video.

Making reliable market forecasts in the 'age of coronavirus' is not an easy task. Due to the exceptionality of the Covid-19 pandemic, historical data is scant, if existent at all, and cannot support any reliable forecasts for consumer markets. Alternatively, "We can look for answers in the field of marketing, sociology or consumer psychology, or in those countries that are already confronted with the reopening of their commercial activities, like China," says Prof. Visconti. "What the Asian country shows is a strengthened consumer nationalism, that is, an increased preference for domestic products and services. However, the deep economic and cultural differences between China and Switzerland make such comparison a useful though risky temptation", explains Visconti.

For Switzerland, Prof. Visconti suggests distinguishing short- versus long-term effects. "In the short term, consumer behaviour will tend to hover over the habits developed during the lockdown phase", says Visconti. The researcher provides three examples: "Consumption of streaming digital content will continue; home consumption, supported by home delivery and take-away services, is likely to be preferred; and, the tendency to concentrate purchases—that is, buying more and less often, in order to limit the risk of exposure to contagion—is also to last".

In the medium and long term, observers generally agree on the trend towards a return to "normalcy", which according to Visconti may, however, be affected by lasting changes due to the pandemic. "On the one hand, for those citizens economically affected by the crisis, we will observe an inevitable, and undesired, downward revision of their consumption habits. On the other hand, for those consumers whose purchasing power will remain essentially unchanged, we could observe voluntary changes in purchasing and consumption behaviour. This is likely to happen as a consequence of either the acquisition of new, and typically technological, skills, which could migrate part of their purchases on e-commerce, or to the stabilisation of new and pleasant habits, such as happy hours and meals shared through a variety of video-chat platforms, with a strengthening of in-house consumption".


A summary of Prof. Visconti's views were aired on RSI’s TV show 'Tempi Moderni', on May 8 (in Italian): (from minute 14:33)


Re-opening businesses, how will our behavior change?