Redefining Essentials: How our Hearts are Dictating Spending Post-COVID

Kizzy D. Blount

If people can’t afford groceries, why are restaurant visits back to pre-pandemic levels? The simple answer to this question is that essentials have been redefined. After two years of restricted living, pent-up emotions can override logic and re-position some seemingly non-essential purchases as ‘worth it’.

In times of inflation, interest hikes, and threat of recession, logic would tell us to limit discretionary spending and focus only on what’s absolutely necessary. Typically, these are things like food, shelter, and transportation. However, our current time is anything but typical. This may explain why despite claims of day-to-day expenses becoming difficult to manage, data has shown a 17% increase in restaurant visits year over year, landing at just about the same as this time in 2019.  

Before we get into reasons that drive this behaviour, it is important to acknowledge the k-shaped recovery and how these statistics cannot be applied to everyone equally. Some Canadians are struggling much more than others, and are less likely to be contributing to restaurant visits. Still, the emotions caused by the pandemic are powerful and can cause anyone to disregard logic, regardless of their financial situation.

Here are three actions marketers can take to meet the emotion-driven consumers post-pandemic:

1) Re-Introduce Experience

While we have been able to buy products during lockdown, our access to experiences was severely restricted. In fact, online shopping doubled during the pandemic. And while online shopping served as a great way to pass some time, become familiar with new forms of convenience, and even support business who were struggling, it lacked one thing – experience.

We all know that too much of one thing can lead us to want something else. In this case, too many products have us clamoring for experience. After two years of buying products, experience has literally doubled in priority.

Snow Peak, a Japanese-originated camping equipment company, re-introduces experience in a time of product fatigue by enabling their customers to experience the outdoors through the lens of their ethos. Snow Peak Campfield offers campers a reimagined outdoor experience with every detail and amenity carefully considered and thoughtfully designed. Accommodations range from tent sites to cabins, as well as a café for connecting with other campers.

2) Promote Togetherness

The pandemic brought on a wave of isolation that affected people across the country, most notably seen in younger generations. The result of this was an increased likelihood of developing depression and other mental health troubles.  It comes as no surprise that people are seeking solace in community now that they have been granted the opportunity.

Clubs and similar community groups have been declining in members for quite a while, especially for young people who can easily connect online. But since the pandemic forced in-person gatherings to stop entirely, some expect a newly increased desire for these communities to unfold. Just about three quarters of private club members use them to connect with friends and many are saying that their clubs are more important to them now than before the pandemic. Sure, we can connect from home, but connection is better together.

Hatch, a maternity fashion brand, excels at promoting togetherness by bringing together a community set in mutual experience. They host community events where soon-to-be moms can come together, share information, and become a resource that extends beyond the products they sell. This cultivates a community and positions Hatch as a critical element in the maternity process.

3) Uplift Local Players

As Canadians peered out their windows during lockdown, they witnessed local businesses post up notices of closure. Together, the country faced the pain that comes with the age-old saying, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.

The result of this was a sense of responsibility and a spark to support local more than before. 65% say that it makes them feel better to support local and about half of Canadians are willing to spend more on local if needed. This intention is holding strong, even through times of inflation, showcasing the deep desire from Canadians.

Sobeys, a Canadian grocery retailer, uplifts local players and fights to save communities with their Local Supplier Program. Since 1907, Sobeys has been connecting with local farmers and producers to get their items on the shelves and in front of consumers. Today, they have thousands of local partners whose products can be found in Sobeys. They take the time to spotlight exceptional partners and grant rewards in hopes to give them a platform and ultimately make local purchases more convenient.

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