By Anthi Pashi*
A look at how Cypriots are shifting behaviour post-Covid.
We’ve heard many people say it. Government representatives, business owners, brands, health professionals, everyday people like you and me.
‘There is no such thing as going back to normal. There will be a new ‘normal’.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about massive and speedy change to many parts of our lives – that is something no-one can deny. What isn’t very clear however and what varies depending on who you talk to, is how much of a change will stick now that most measures are lifted, and what will these changes mean for people and businesses.
New trends are becoming more and more obvious as we look around us and notice how various groups of people are behaving. And although the realisation that the public is changing may initially cause some distress, brands and businesses that take these observations a step further, are the ones creating opportunities out of them. Just take a look at Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement last week to launch Facebook Shops – a mobile-first shopping experience where businesses can easily create an online store on Facebook and Instagram for free. Clearly tuned in to the public’s growing need for convenience in relation to shopping online, but also to the barriers of entry for smaller businesses that might not have the infrastructure to set up on online store, Facebook steps in and solves problems while creating a new revenue stream for itself.
Opportunities like these exist. The key is to be constantly aware of your surroundings, look at people and their behaviours, but mainly decode the trends and recognise the potential in them.
We’ve looked at the current trends of Cypriots from pre to post lockdown and share them with you here:
- Let’s take a walk
Everyone seems to be outside. And it makes sense. It started off as the only form of exercise you could do that was outside during lockdown and seems to be continuing post lockdown. Being allowed to step out of your home just once a day for a significant period of time, meant that people took to the streets for at least 2 reasons. Firstly, the practical benefit of stretching your legs and the second reason was a mental one. Being outside offered people a sense of escape. A sense of freedom that had been taken away. So people started walking. And they continue to do so now that restrictions have been lifted.
- Wheels are making a comeback.
I am absolutely sure that you either know someone who recently bought a bike, or you yourself took up this activity this past few weeks. Bikes are everywhere. If you live in Limassol or Larnaka, you’ll also notice other types of wheels. Rollerblading is making a comeback. GenZs and Millennials are pulling out their roller-blades or skateboards from their teenage years, or even buying news one and taking to the parks and promenades.
At first glance you might just write this off as a trend sparked from the need to exercise. However what’s particularly interesting to notice is that even though they could be working out at home – there’s no shortage of free workout offerings on social media during this period – they still choose to become engaged in an activity outside. And this goes back to the sense of freedom which most are craving either consciously or subconsciously. There’s something about being physical outside that potentially was forgotten pre-covid, and rediscovered now. But there’s also another insight here if you notice how people are engaging in their chosen activity. It’s predominantly in groups. A minimum of 2 people, but often many more, riding or rollerblading along, fulfilling their social needs. People want to socialise. They want to exchange stories, laugh, discuss, even just hang out, while also feeling safe outside.
- Want to come over?
On the one hand, trust and safety will be a priority for many Cypriots, at least for the immediate future. On the other hand, they are excited about going out, meeting friends and family, maybe having a drink now they have their freedom back. So how will these 2 relatively conflicting factors balance out in the long term?
One scenario is that people will prefer to have people over. The safety of your home or the home of the few people you trust, might become the preferred option for dinner, drinks or movie night. These are environments you can control, more so than a restaurant for example.
On the flip side, there is a group of people that feel unease having others in their space and would much rather meet somewhere neutral. This way, even if there is the possibility of someone being coronavirus positive, you won’t feel the need to bleach your whole house once they’ve left.
There is however also option three which was made clear the first weekend of no movement restrictions. A portion of the public seems not at all concerned, going back to their previous socialising habits. If you took a walk at Makenzy on Saturday night you’d think that Covid-19 never happened.
These are three very different approaches and it’s likely we’ll see all of these in the coming months. Keep an eye out on which one the majority adopt.
- Bringing in Nature
Home is our sanctuary. It always had this role but our way of life pre-Covid didn’t really allow us to treat it that way. Most were too busy and preferred to go out when they had the chance. Lockdown really enforced this notion that home is our safe place so you may have noticed a trend towards upscaling our surroundings. One way that Cypriots seem to be doing this is with greenery. Flowers, herbs and plants are becoming more and more popular, firstly in an effort to bring the outside in, to reconnect with nature and secondly, to make their home even more appealing for them, signalling that they continue to place value on their homes and the time they spend there.
- Grab that paint and brush
Based on the same need to upscale our homes is also the DIY trend. Starting off during lockdown, this trend solved 2 problems. The ‘I have so much free time’ and the ‘that wall always needed another coat of paint’. Lockdown was the time people could finally do those home improvements they always planned but never got around to doing, and it seems this trend is still active as people are taking to fixing up their gardens. Whether this is because they plan to spend more time at home, with or without friends, only time will tell.
- Technology? No problem.
There is no doubt technology ‘saved’ us during this pandemic. We were able to see our loved ones, carry on with work, children were schooled from the kitchen table, our grocery shopping done online and of course be entertained. Prior to Covid, most Cypriots mainly used technology for social media and entertainment. Circumstances forced them to utilise it in a way that did not fall in their comfort zone. This could potentially be an opportunity for brands and businesses to offer additional convenience or even additional points of sale where relevant. Adoption might not be such an issue anymore, and people may even demand more digital services if they felt they benefited from it during lockdown.
- Hold on to the Euros.
There are 2 things to consider here. Firstly, people are excited to have regained their freedom which drives their desire to go out. On the other hand however, many have been hit financially while concerns regarding the economy continue. Which brings us to this: people are going out, but how often? And how much will they really spend? Added value could be something the consumer considers before making a choice. And added value can come in many forms including pricing or experience. The important thing to keep an eye out for, is how consumers will make purchasing decisions going forward. The likelihood is that they’ll be much more considerate when spending and that they’ll want to receive more for their euro.
- Health above all
It seems like an obvious one but there is great opportunity here if you look close enough. Yes, people value their health. Yes, Covid has highlighted the importance of being healthy and yes people have started some sort of activity even if it’s just walking which many of them have kept up. But it has also given much emphasis on mental and emotional health. Staying home with limited control over the way you live your life can and has affected many people on an emotional level. Parents became overwhelmed with the kids home 24/7. Couples recognised the need for alone time. People living alone struggled and missed companionship. Uncertainty and concern for the future are taking their toll on people’s mentality. They are seeking health on multiple levels – for their body and their mind, recognising the benefit to slow down and starting positive habits to enhance their lives even further. Whether that’s reading, meditating or adopting a healthier diet.
We don’t know how long these trends will last. Things are changing so fast and people are unpredictable. But trends, no matter how short lived, are insights into public sentiment. Insights that can prove valuable if opportunities are created from them and acted upon in the right way. All we need to do is keep our eyes and ears open, have people’s best interest at the core of our decisions, and crucial step number three, ACT.
Anthi Pashi is the Business Development Manager of Partners VMLY&R, a full service communication agency.