UX design and COVID-19

The Takeaway: Peoples attitudes, behaviour, needs have changed. Implementing design experiences on past data pre-COVID-19 will not bring you the absolute results of success you are aiming for. Test and re-align your findings.

Companies attitudes UX design and COVID-19

Companies all around the world have been affected in some way financially by COVID-19 as have their creative employees.

In May 2020 there was a flood of creative professionals heading back into the market. Contractors resorted to pursuing permanent opportunities because projects within organisations were put on hold.

Creative professionals were fearful of redundancy and unfortunately for many, redundancy came, fast. As a result, some companies resorted to using the previous round of research or opinionated assumptions made months or years ago.

The above coupled with what seemed to be all efforts do productive business at profit or cost even to stay afloat alone instead of continuing to dovetail business objectives with creating better experiences based on data took many companies down an unknown rabbit hole. That isn’t a bad thing though is it? Here’s the problem with that – customer behaviour and attitudes have changed.

How customers behaviour changed because of COVID-19

Pre COVID-19 Post COVID-19
Many commuted every day to an office No commuting and working from
Children at school or daycare Children homeschooled or looked
after at home
Many exercised at a gym Many swapped gym for home exercise,
outdoors, or not at all
Bought products in-store Bought products online
Going to the cinema Watching movies at home online
Eating out Ordering in (restaurants closed)
Socialising at pubs and bars in larger groups Socialising at home with immediate
family and small groups
Credit: NNg Group

To add, there were economic, political, and other things that affected peoples behaviour and thinking. For example, the mental and emotional stress experienced by many because of being confined to a smaller space changed their behaviour. The restricted physical routines of movement changed attitudes creating a complex picture that could be argued as not being an accurate depiction of the customer.

Many companies already mobilised for online eCommerce saw a sharp rise in visits and conversion rate on their website.  And many of those companies put it down to the law of attraction.  Not an entirely correct assessment.

“Less research prevents organisations in gaining a better understanding as to how the global pandemic has affected and is continuing to affect customer behaviour.”

For instance, regarding the increased conversion the Financial Times referenced that 60% of retail in China will be eCommerce in the next three years. COVID-19 is global, so that would mean a massive possible shift for all eCommerce enabled companies, including the UK.

In addition, some companies thought that the sudden visits increase would be a way out creating large financial gains but that increase driven by a shift customer behaviour only masked the design problems that still existed on a their website. If strides are not made to improve the experience using current behavioural data, any gains will be temporary.

How research is changing because of COVID-19

With all the cutbacks companies have put less emphasis on research, however more research is needed not less.

Less research prevents organisations in gaining a better understanding as to how the global pandemic has affected and is continuing to affect customer behaviour. At least four areas could to be analysed to detect a change in customer behaviour:

  • Behavioural
  • Geographical
  • Psychological
  • Temporal

Firstly, insight such as pattern frequency, change in types of products procured and the why beneath the actions reveal behavioural data. Imposed restrictions, sudden changes in finances, and the results of quarantine or lockdown also reveal valuable insights in this area. For example, if an customer lost their job, they would be less likely to make purchases.

Secondly, understanding contextual insights relating to geographical data provides the ability to cross-analyse how the government or local state/council laws or restrictions may be affecting customer behaviour.

Thirdly, psychological insights provide really important data on what the customer may be interested in buying. This may be based on how particularly heightened sensitivities may have affected their decision making.

The NNg article referenced earlier provided two key questions around the psychological aspect of customer insight; Are your users’ concerns and anxieties different now? Have their priorities changed?

Finally, temporal insights help to provide some visibility on how long these changes will last. Above all, how long it will take or if the customer will revert back to their previous behaviour.

If some temporal experiences are traumatic enough, then based on previous human behaviour, some things will remain that permanently affect the human psyche, therefore changing customer behaviour.

What organisations should be doing about UX design and COVID-19

Organisations should see how they can take advantage of the sudden growth in the creative talent pool if financially able. Where many made redundancies, others are seeing this as an opportunity to hire the talent they could not get before become available now.

This was a gain for those “who seized the night, but a loss for others who went to bed” as it were.

In many ways, UX design and COVID-19 go hand in hand when thinking about customer behaviour.

Companies that truly recognise this will be the most flexible and forward-thinking and ultimately be the ones that will continue to operate. Times are changing, customer behaviour is changing faster.

In conclusion, if you are about to embark on analysing this changing landscape, don’t forget to analyse how the future will look for your market and customers amidst COVID-19.

Because COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon.

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