Exploring the future lifestyle challenges and opportunities for consumers shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic
With a spotlight on the African continent, these insights looks to consumers' experiences, concerns, challenges and opportunities around their lifestyles and technology, in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic. It also covers the consumers' outlook on urban reality for 2025. The insights are representative of the opinions of 206 million consumers in Africa and derived from a quantitative study across seven countries in Africa.
A time of uncertainty and new opportunities
01. Living through the pandemic is causing consumers to prioritize differently
Anything routine will happen online by 2025: 2 in 3 expect to use e-learning for upskilling and over half of consumers in the region believe all their entertainment activities will happen online. More than one-third will mainly order their groceries online going forward.
02. Consumers look to a future filled with opposing predictions
Sixty-seven percent expect heightened stress-levels within society: more than three in four believe that the majority will juggle multiple jobs to maintain a decent income. At the same time, 3 in 4 expect to lead healthier lives.
03. Convenience will come at the cost of privacy
As more of life’s key activities are expected to move online, consumers expect their privacy concerns will increase. While 82 percent of consumers predict that life will be steered by convenience in 2025, 4 in 5 also expect to pay more attention to their online security and privacy.
04. Local shopping will lead the way
Driven partly by environmental concerns, half of consumers in the region expect to shop for more locally made products and produce as a new future norm.
05. Two in five of consumers express a concern for climate change and pollution, yet 74 percent are looking to increase their leisure travel going forward
There is a collective responsibility to make sustainable travel options accessible in order to address this growing interest. For the time being, 3 in 10 are expressing a will to refrain from flying when traveling for leisure in the future.
06. Consumers will have added 10 hours per week of online time, and 3.4 more services to their daily online activities as they enter the next normal
It’s necessary to place digital inclusivity high on the agenda for rebuilding resilient future societies given consumers’ expectations of expanding their digital habits by 2025.
The next (digital) normal
Consumer predictions about life after the pandemic focus on a more digitally enabled lifestyle and include changes in priorities. Routine activities are expected to happen digitally, making way for those things most longed for in life: having new experiences, creating memories with others and spending more time outdoors.
The shift to remote working
Remote work is expected to stay: three in 10 expect to continue working fully remotely after the pandemic. This increases even further to three in eight among the working population in Algeria and one in three among the working population in Ethiopia. Similarly, university students also expect that over 80 percent of their study hours will be spent online in the next normal.
Travel patterns will also change in the next normal but perhaps not in the way one might expect: one in three expect to switch their commuting methods for those with less environmental impact, such as using public transport, biking or walking. However, many consumers take the opposite view with their primary choice being car travel.
Consumers expect a shift in their chosen mode of transport going forward
Source: Ericsson ConsumerLab GTM 2021
The online shopping evolution
Shopping is an area of dual purpose: a pastime and social activity for some, while being purpose-driven and practical for others. Over the course of the pandemic, shopping in physical stores became challenging and online shopping a more attractive option.
Consumers predict online shopping will become a more common feature in the next normal for their shopping needs. While shopping in physical stores will still likely be a prevalent habit in the future, online purchasing is expected to account for 37 percent of all shopping activities. Aside from general shopping, groceries are another purchase category and even this highly routine activity is set to be handled online. Among the online population in the African markets, consumers estimate that one-fourth of all their grocery shopping will be ordered via online platforms.
The effect of the pandemic on online and in-store shopping purchases
Source: Ericsson ConsumerLab GTM 2021
A rise in e-health
Now, more than ever, consumers are realizing the importance of taking care of their health. Among those who have experienced illness in the past year, the frequency of using e-health services has risen to 3.6 times per month. The benefit of this experience during the pandemic means this group of consumers, in comparison to others, predict they will use e-health services even more in the future with an expected frequency of 4.6 times per month.
A duality in urban life in 2025
In exploring how consumers believe society will change by the year 2025, it becomes apparent two underlying sentiments inform their predictions: worry and ambition. Worry – for a challenge-filled future; and ambition – for the different ways they expect to circumvent these challenges.
Stress levels and work-life balance
Among the consumers in Africa, 67 percent of consumers believe that by 2025, the general stress level in their country will be much higher. More than seven in 10 also believe the majority will need to hold a second or third job, in addition to their primary job, to maintain a decent income. While this may be the case, three in four consumers also expect to be leading a healthier life and equally as many predict that they will practice more mindful living to a greater extent. Consumers are aiming to strike a better balance in daily life by means of a greater reliance on connectivity and online services in the future. Undoubtedly, the pandemic has inspired consumers to handle more of their needs through online services. This is something they expect to extend into the next normal and beyond.
Predicting the future
The two most shared predictions among consumers living in urban areas, are concerned with online security and a drive to lead healthier lives. The concern for online privacy comes against the backdrop of future lifestyles being further empowered through online services. The concern for health follows the pandemic that has highlighted the need to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
A digitally compromised future
Consumers are looking to prioritize new experiences and live more mindfully in the future. This does not place any boundaries on how entertainment is experienced. In fact, over three in five consumers predict that most entertainment, culture and social gatherings will take place over online platforms and be easily accessible for more to enjoy.
The privacy dilemma
Given the many and diverse ways in which consumers are expecting to use online services and platforms in their daily lives, the overall time they spend being connected will also increase. Today, one-third of consumers already feel concerned about online privacy.
Consumers who are most concerned about online security today are primarily in their mid-20s and above; exist most prominently in the working population; and are technology-interested individuals. However, 8 in 10 consumers across all age groups, professions and technology proficiencies, expect to pay more attention to online privacy and security by 2025.
Online concerns are set to grow
Source: Ericsson ConsumerLab GTM 2021
Consuming locally and traveling widely
The focus on having experiences and creating new memories is making consumers plan for a future that has both a local and global focus.
Driven partly by environmental concerns, consumers are not necessarily looking to consume less but to consume more locally. By 2025, as many as half predict they will only shop locally made products and locally grown produce. Furthermore, 59 percent of consumers predict that local consumption will become a new future norm.
Quarantine and social distancing, coupled with overall limits to physical mobility, during the pandemic, have underscored the value of breaking away from long-standing routines. However, with a future focused on new experiences and enjoying life, consumers are also looking to increase a behavior that seems at odds with their environmental worries: increased leisure travel.
Digital inclusion for all
Access to connectivity and digital inclusivity are paramount to rebuilding resilient, sustainable and equitable societies in the future.
When entering the next normal, consumers are predicted to have added an average of 3.4 more online services to their daily online activities, while also increasing the time they spend online by 10 hours per week in comparison to their pre-pandemic habits. While there is still a gap between the most advanced and the more moderate online users, the divergence is reducing as moderate users expanded the number of services taken up over the course of the pandemic.
It is increasingly important that access to connectivity is afforded to all, given the many and diverse needs consumers will need to seek to address through digital services in the future. This sets digital inclusivity high on the agenda for future urban planning.
In this pivotal moment where the world is slowly emerging from a significant crisis, there is an opportunity to shape a future urban reality that addresses the future challenges perceived by consumers, while also allowing for safe and inclusive digital spaces that enable them to focus their time and effort on those activities which matter most in their lives.