The Coronavirus pandemic will be remembered as a world re-ordering event – both for those directly impacted by a personal tragedy and those forced to stay at home for several months on end.

Separated from loved ones, unable to eat out or travel, home-schooling their children, working from home or not able to work at all, people across the world found refuge online, creating virtual solutions to replace everyday interactions. The home has become the school, the office, the yoga studio and the entertainment hub, with broadband becoming the backbone to this new way of living.

“Without connectivity I would not have been able to run my business, stay in touch with people and maintain some kind of semblance of normality. It has been absolutely essential, and without it things would look very different.”MALE (47), LONDON

As an essential provider of connectivity, we have played a vital role in alleviating loneliness by keeping people connected, helping businesses run smoothly and enabling key services such as hospitals and supermarkets to operate around the clock in challenging circumstances. Connections were always important, but this global pandemic has shown how they are now more critical than ever.

 Understanding consumer sentiment

A few weeks into the Covid-19 crisis, as the gravity of the situation became more apparent, our Consumer team commissioned  some research to understand the impact of the crisis on consumers. We wanted to get close to them, to understand how they felt, how their needs and attitudes were changing, so that we could respond in the best way to meet those needs, now and in the future.

We partnered with insights and research agency, Mole in a Minute to curate the thoughts, feelings and sentiment from a group of consumers and topical experts located in our key markets, the US and China. We also created a Facebook group of 120 people and cross checked insights from our consumers and experts with data and statistics to add even more robustness to the study.

They all told us how corona has impacted their own lives and lives of their close ones and the role that technology has played in adjusting to their new lives.

Technology as the backbone of this new life

Unsurprisingly, the research revealed that the use of technology and the internet exploded exponentially while people were confined to their homes. 58% of people spent more time on social media, traditional TV viewing increased by 63% as people tuned in to daily coronavirus briefings and electronic sales went through the roof as people spent more time video conferencing, gaming and educating themselves online

Although there was some negativity associated with this deeper dependence on technology – the frustrations of bad connections, abundance of fake news and increase in screen time – on the whole, connectivity is seen to bring monumental benefits during the pandemic, providing practical, emotional, professional and social support. Consumers have loved the escapism and entertainment technology it provides, describing it as a ‘godsend’ and ‘game changer’ in managing loneliness.

“I’m using my technology for what seems like much healthier purposes now: meaningful meetings with friends and family, educating my children and myself, watching shows to relax my mind and be together as a family.”female (43)

The way people view technology has changed as a result of this pandemic. It is now seen as an absolute necessity, and more trusted than ever before. Our consumers expressed gratitude for its ability to help solve both big world problems and the more day-to-day needs of being able to hold productive meetings, enable online learning and keep people’s health and well-being in check.

“My life is online now. Without reliable, high speed broadband I would not be able to do my job, my child would have no schooling, we wouldn’t be able to order groceries, and we wouldn’t have entertainment to watch. Technology is the backbone of this new life.”Male (45), New york

New opportunities now, and for the future

We are currently experiencing the acceleration of major social, environmental and economic changes that are having an enormous impact on the way we live our lives.

We are listening to feedback from our customers and society as whole, and are using these insights to further develop our products and services. We need to quickly innovate and adapt to cater for the new needs of customers. For Liberty Global as a business, new opportunity has arisen from this new reality: providing smart solutions for the home, online education and home-schooling, working from home, health and wellness and new digital entertainment experiences, are all areas we can explore and co-create with consumers.

For businesses and those working from home, for example, video conferencing and online collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams have ensured an almost seamless transition from board room to living room. In our business, everyone was surprised by how quickly individuals and teams adapted and even thrived in this new working environment – helped of course by our IT department quickly rising to the challenge  and rolling out supportive tools and training. As a result, WFH is no longer taboo – it’s the new norm. An entire new industry that is rapidly formulating and servicing those no longer confined to the office.

“Technology has advanced exponentially because of the Coronavirus. We will see rapid, quick-start launches and amazing innovations will premier. It is a race and the first one wins.”Female (65), Dallas

Technology has advanced exponentially because of the coronavirus. We will see rapid, quick-start launches and amazing innovations will premier. It is a race and the first one wins.

Perhaps the most transformational opportunity – the one that will cause the most disruption – is the new consumer demand for brands to be better. Better for the environment, better for their people and better for the consumers and communities they serve. Eight out of ten consumers are paying more attention to what companies are doing during the pandemic, especially in regard to employee safety and how they treat their customers. From now on, brands’ actions and intent will be scrutinised and they will be held to account if they do not deliver. Brands have the opportunity to emerge stronger, more connected and more human if they shift their purpose from selling products, to building a better world because of their products.

Covid-19 is the first pandemic in human history where technology and social media are being used on a massive scale to keep people safe, productive and connected while being physically apart. The world as we knew it is going to be dramatically altered, but the positive impacts – more time at home with the kids, no commuting and greater community focus – should not be ignored, and while we are still in uncharted territory, I’m optimistic that the prioritization of human values and creation of new opportunities will pave the way for a better future.

We’ll be revisiting this study ten weeks on from the original and checking in with the same people to see if their emotions and behaviours have changed.

Check back here for the latest insights.

Image credit: MiaM.