The New Consumer: Understanding The Non-Conscious Mind to Increase Retention and Growth in a Covid World

2nd February 2021


In today’s world we are surrounded by a continuous stream of information and technology. COVID-19 has only accelerated this, with us seeing technological adaptation that was predicted to span years in a matter of months. The technology and social media designed to keep us safe, informed, connected and productive has also resulted in an inevitable often termed ‘infodemic’.

Essentially, we are being overloaded with information; conspiracy theories, ‘fake news’ and ‘magic cures’ are spreading at an alarming rate. COVID-19 has also heightened uncertainty, and not just uncertainty around concerns over exposure to COVID-19 or access to medical care. People are becoming increasingly uncertain about the future of the economy, along with their personal employment, finances and relationships. COVID-19 has taught us how to continually adjust and readjust our behaviour in response to changing risks and government guidelines.


Why does this matter and how does this affect consumer behaviour?

The human brain, despite its extreme power, is limited in its resources and capacities for attention. When there is too much information, or when we are presented with uncertainty, our brains take processing shortcuts to save cognitive resources. These are called heuristics. They are the brain’s way of trying to respond quickly to events, balancing its workload and trying to avoid overloading itself in terms of attention. When we repeat these non-conscious decisions or ‘heuristics’, they become behaviour patterns which quickly form habits. Given that these heuristics affect human thought most significantly in situations of uncertainty and information overload, these mental biases will inevitably be amplified in COVID-19. In other words, COVID-19 creates the perfect climate for the brain to take short-cuts that we are not consciously aware of. As mental biases feed behaviour, and behaviours create habits, a consumer presented with an overabundance of information and uncertainty is likely to be thinking and behaving more irrationally than normal.

It goes without saying that COVID-19 has changed the way we shop. Consumer attitudes, behaviours and purchasing habits are changing—and many of these behaviours will remain post-pandemic. Perhaps most notable is the speed of the shift to e-commerce. According to IBM’s U.S. Retail Index, the pandemic has accelerated the shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by approximately five years. COVID-19 has also driven a loyalty ‘shake-up’, as consumers are forced to buy new things due to down trading and decreased discretionary spending. The call for sustainability also now appears to be louder than ever; people are shopping more consciously and ‘buying local’. Accenture’s recent Consumer Behaviour Research Report found that 49% of consumers claimed to be more conscious of price when shopping in 2020, whilst 54% of consumers say they are now attempting to make more sustainable choices than pre-pandemic.


Beyond the data

Whilst this data is incredibly helpful and provides insight into what people have been doing and how they have been shopping, there is an increasing need for brands to complement their existing insights and data to understand ‘why’ these trends are happening. Previously, brands could get away with making assumptions about their customers because they were behaving in a way they have always behaved. Yet, the uncertainty and ‘information overload’ currently facing society means that understanding the non-conscious mind is more important now than ever. If brands want to increase retention and grow, they must acknowledge the hidden decision making of their consumers.

At Innovationbubble, we tap into these hidden ‘whys’ of customer behaviour by employing bespoke quantitative and qualitative tools. For instance, we helped one of the UKs largest fashion brands to reduce their customer segments from 16 segments to 3 actionable groups, according to their hidden psychological needs. This enabled the client to communicate the same products to its customers but in the customers’ archetype language. In campaigns where the results of our engine were applied, there was a 23% increase in US sales and a 51% increase in UK sales.

We also helped a multinational investment bank to reveal that, whilst people consciously stated that they didn’t trust their bank, they actually unconsciously didn’t trust their own financial knowledge. Through designing training workshops for customer facing and digital staff to consolidate their ability to support customers rather than demonstrating superiority of leadership, their customer churn was halved over 6 months and their market share grew by 17%.

These examples demonstrate that adding behavioural insights to your existing data knowledge will give your brand more relevance and engagement. This replaces the hit and miss assumptions of brands with behavioural certainty, an ever-pressing need in the current climate.


If you want help understanding the genuine drivers of your customer’s behaviour then do reach out to me at [email protected]


Author: Innovationbubble