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How Covid is permanently shifting our attitudes and behaviour around place

Friday 23 October 2020 Data Insight & Analytics

Joel Abbey's picture
By Joel Abbey

Some interesting trends were already underway before Covid in our connection to place. Community, ‘Love local’, sustainability, interest and hyper-convenience were all coming through strongly in the lead up to lockdown. Perhaps in part a response to a backdrop where many of our town centres are clone spaces and with poor public realm, inflexible access to services, and little evolution or change in their function.

Whilst 2008 can be marked as an economic crisis with the effects drawn out over the coming years, for 2020 this is as much a people crisis, the change almost immediate, with everyone impacted in some way. Lockdown has created a new mindset – flexible working, safety, and live local, love local. This has initially been driven by necessity for example shopping locally as more of us work from home. For many especially the more affluent, localism, ethics and sustainability have become ever more important whilst ‘value for money’ is a rising motivator for everyone.

Money used to buy us freedom of movement, now it buys us the freedom to stay still. CACI’s surveys that have been tracking the movement of people show how the affluent urban groups have stayed local. Whilst less affluent groups with less choice to work from home have been most mobile. For all, movement is checked by the risk and reward, and people are returning to the spaces they perceive as safe. Destinations need to be mindful of the positives of outdoor and ‘open’ public space and clear health and safety compliance, whilst busy places are perceived negatively.

Whilst we see the green shoots of recovery for many of our town centres, the significant reduction in spend is both related to a reduction of income for many, and the 39% of people still working from home -  a cohort dominated by ‘Affluent Achievers’, who also happen to be the biggest spenders.

The shift to digital has been rapid and we expect it will be permanent. CACI predict online spend will have risen 30 to 42% in 2020 before settling to 40% in 2021.
Whilst sustainability has become more important the green agenda is more mixed. Our reluctance to use public transport remains a barrier to engagement. We do walk and cycle more but only locally and the reluctance to use public transport has hardened. There remains a divide based on affluence and public transport is being used out of necessity over choice.
Lockdown has hardened peoples’ principles and reinforced the shift in customer motivation. Ease of purchase and safety supersede cheapest price despite pressure on incomes. ‘Community’ too has hardened as a motivator especially with young families. 4 in 5 people support vulnerable groups receiving priority access to goods & services and this has remained steady throughout lockdown.

A new consumer reality means a new service delivery environment. The impact of these changes on how people engage with space and services will be far reaching. They were underway already but have been significantly accelerated in the last few months. This fast change exacerbates the potential risk for some vulnerable groups to be left behind. Public transport will slowly return, those who can will opt to work for home perhaps 2 days a week, the rapid change to digital is permanent, and the new normal will become just normal.

The civic opportunity is in the resurgence of community, and in community centres responding to service demand, innovation of local spaces to respond to how they are being used to support the day time economy. The role of space must become more engaging and service led, with higher expectations for integrated multi-channel delivery. To tailor communication and services around the changing needs of your customers such as safety and convenience, whilst ensuring ‘at risk’ groups are not left behind.

 

For further information on how CACI can support you please free to contact me.

Joel Abbey, Director, Citizen Services, 020 7605 6204 jabbey@caci.co.uk

Some interesting trends were already underway before Covid in our connection to place. Community, ‘Love local’, sustainability, interest and hyper-convenience were all coming through strongly in the lead up to lockdown. Perhaps in part a response to a backdrop where many of our town centres are clone spaces and with poor public realm, inflexible access to services, and little evolution or change in their function.

How Covid is permanently shifting our attitudes and behaviour around place