Understanding how the current crisis is changing customers’ decision-making: 
A 20 day video diary customer study

This report covers the first four weeks of lockdown, including the impact on family and finances, the new habits that are set to stick, and the organisations who have helped or hindered so far.


If you'd like to stay connected to what really matters to customers now, please contact us to be involved in the next phase of our panel. 

At 8pm on Monday 23rd March the UK Prime Minister asked us all to stay at home. 30 days later here we are; a nation of Zoom calling, Tiger King watching, Gousto eating, home-schoolers…


Or are we?


It’s difficult at the best of times to maintain an ‘Outside-In’ perspective. When you are, quite literally, locked inside your own world it’s near impossible to see and understand the world from where your customers stand. Therein lies the challenge and the reason we’ve invested in our ‘Outsiders’ panel. To combat inside-out thinking and to uncover understanding of what matters to customers right now. Bringing the outside-in. All this, with the aim of helping organisations respond well. To reduce the likelihood of them making bad decisions (easily done: Wetherspoons, Sports Direct, BrewDog - take note!) and where possible, open up new opportunities that bring value to customers, to colleagues and to the long-term success of a business.


From the outset there’s been no shortage of information or opinion available about customers’ changing sentiments and shopping habits. In reality, rarely do data heavy charts and faceless segments provide the clarity or energy needed to inspire action. We set out to help leaders connect with what customers were experiencing for real. Giving them the opportunity to not only see and hear about their customers’ needs and frustrations; but to feel them and empathise with them too.


We’ve spent the last three weeks connected via a digital platform to eighteen individuals and their families across the UK. From a seventy-year-old psychotherapist living alone in East London, to a Civil Servant and his teenage sons hauled up together in Humberside. We’ve had the privilege of being by their side through the highs and the lows of their unique lockdown experiences. We have spoken to them directly over Zoom each week, recorded their experiences through daily video diaries and explored some of their more subconscious thoughts and feelings with a range of probing challenges and activities. These included getting them to advocate on behalf of others (a tried and tested projective technique that reveals how people really feel) and writing letters of advice to their pre-Covid selves.


What made the study particularly valuable was the input of our network. Rather than making assumptions about what organisations might value hearing about, we asked our broad network to submit topics of interest to them. As a result, you’ll see throughout this series of articles a range of different ways of looking at the challenges and opportunities both customers and organisations are facing. From the inconvenient truths of customers’ lockdown lives, to a deep dive into their financial hopes and fears.


Some of what we've learnt has confirmed what’s obvious. People are fed up of Zoom; if they have them, they wish they could socially distance from their kids at least 10 times a day; no-one misses canteen lunches. However, much of what we've learnt was anything but obvious. We have been struck by the constant, rapid, and dramatic changes in people's feelings, opinions and behaviours. In just twenty days our panel’s expectations of customer service yoyo-ed up and down beyond any level of predictability. They’ve gone from fury at out-of-stock shelves and having no one to speak to; to unprecedented levels of empathy, happy to deal with previously unacceptable levels of service. (Who knew customers would be happy to wait an hour just to have a single question answered by a real person?) To now, apparently moving back to a more ‘me-centric’ attitude with decreasing levels of patience for organisations that can’t deliver on the basics. We’ve seen these strange shifts in behaviour across multiple areas of life from food, to finance, and health.


It's clear that the only predictable thing about customer’s lockdown behaviour is that it is not at all predictable. With ‘stay at home’ advice likely to remain in place until at least June, the journey for customers and the organisations that support them is far from over. Indeed, as we approached the final days of the panel just after Easter, there were signs of shifts again. People were considering spending on non-discretionary items for the first time in weeks. They were researching post-lockdown holidays. Dare we say it, they were looking and sounding much more like their pre-covid selves. However, with pay-day imminent across the UK, it’s likely that mindsets and behaviours will shift yet again. Reduced wages through furlough or a job loss in the household will become reality. This may dampen the spark of consumerism we saw emerging or, for those benefiting from reduced outgoings, maybe the spark will turn into a flame?


Our advice is to do what you can to step into your customers’ shoes. Don’t rely solely on data and opinion. Read broadly. Read what they read. Talk to them and talk to as many people as possible, as often as possible. Challenge yourself to really feel what it’s like being them.


Finally, we’d like to take the chance to say a huge thank you to our generous friends at Further for providing us with the research platform and to the design team at Rare for helping us bring our findings to life.


Stay at home, stay safe but don’t stay ‘Inside-Out’.

© The Foundation Growth Consulting LLP t/a the Foundation, registered in England number OC328203