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The differential impact of the COVID-19 outbreak

Nick Baker Chief Research Officer 22 April 2020

…and how the lockdown has forcibly opened digital doors for older generations

Having been forced to give it a go, people of all generations are becoming more sophisticated digitally.

COVID-19 is indiscriminate. As Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of World Health Organization’s emergencies program, said: “Viruses no know borders and they don’t care about your ethnicity, the colour of your skin or how much money you have in the bank.”

However, its impact is not random. In actual fact it discriminates. It impacts differently for many reasons, some tied to the core social norms of our society. Education, vulnerability, financial inequality, in fact inequalities of all kinds are to some degree the root of the differential impact of COVID-19 in the UK, US, in fact everywhere.

So, some of the questions we all need to be asking ourselves in order to have a finger on the pulse, to feel the transitioning matrix intuitively is…

  • how is this impacting customers, prospects, consumers or businesses differently?
  • what does it mean for your organisation?
  • and what does it mean for society?

Older generations have been hit the hardest by COVID-19’s mortality rate, but also by its restrictions on movement. In many cases they have been self-isolating or isolated for longer and without the natural tendencies to use social media of younger groups.

Unlike younger people, they also didn’t go into this with the skills to easily migrate their real-world social interactions to digital channels. WhatsApp maybe, but certainly not the likes of Instagram live, or Snapchat – let alone TikTok.

But out of necessity, and the clamour from family, friends or even the requirements of work, there has been an awakening for many. Younger generations have also woken up to their role in helping older folk embrace digital – and also had the circumstantial holy trinity of time, inclination, and willingness of their elders.

Digital engagement has become a requirement; digital skills are a must-have and not simply something for millennials and kids. Digital dinosaurs in their 40s are fast-tracking their use of tools they know but haven’t embraced. With these people it’s use as opposed to adoption. They are the owners of all those half-dormant Instagram or Snapchat accounts, lingering in the depths of folders on their phone but rarely used.

Previously the poorly understood domain of the youth, apps like TikTok and Houseparty are seeing massive growth with the middle-aged. Just a handful of weeks ago, TikTok was for 11 year olds singing Taylor Swift (really badly) whilst carrying out some uncoordinated dance routine with more in common with a drunken Weeble than a choreographed routine.

Digital behaviours are changing across the board and this is not a transition which will roll back, it’s part of the new normal that will emerge. Whether it’s mobile banking, social media and video calling via Zoom, Teams or other platforms. Or for others, the use of memes, leaning on digital sources of news or even simply instant messaging and e-commerce for shopping. The world is changing.

Ultimately, desire, need and critically a lack of confidence were the barriers. It’s rarely been a case of genuine incapability. But having been forced to give it a go, people of all generations are becoming more sophisticated digitally.

Savanta’s digital adoption predictive tool draws on a tried and tested analytical framework. It blends an understanding of your customers digital footprint, third party digital adoption and usage data from the likes of Ofcom and forward looking industry specific digital trends analysis. That means you can understand the differentiated segment (whatever segmentation(s) you use), life stage or customer group impact of digital adoption and what it means for your organisation. It’s a crucial finger on the pulse.

Get in touch to find out more.

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