Coronavirus & The Digital Experience

Consumer behaviour changed in several ways during the pandemic: we shifted heavily away from in-person shopping to online consumerism and the biggest name brands for delivery exploded in their popularity and use. These brands used different marketing techniques to ensure people thought of them first to maintain their market share. Our changes in consumer behaviour were also influenced by our new pandemic cultural behaviours and norms.

Evoked & Inept Sets 

Image of an Uber Eats bike delivery person.

At the beginning of the pandemic when school went online, work stopped, restaurants closed, and staying inside for two weeks was all we had to do. My biggest consumer changes were ordering food from Skip the Dishes, Uber Eats, and Door-Dash. These three apps are a part of my evoked set, which is “a small set of “go-to” brands that consumers will consider as they evaluate the alternatives available to them before making a purchasing decision.” (Niosi, n.d.). These are easily the most well-known brands for food delivery but there are others in the inept sets as well, such as Grub Hub, Seamless, Postmates, Go Puff,, Instacart, Munchery and Eat24 that we are either indifferent to or won’t even consider (Niosi, n.d.). 

Star Power

Photograph of actor and "Skip the Dishes" celebrity spokesperson John Hamm.

I see Skip the Dishes advertisements all the time while browsing online and in every single one Jon Hamm is there talking about how convenient and easy to use Skip the Dishes is (hence the name of the app). Jon Hamm is a famous and beloved actor known for movies such as Baby Driver, Tag, Million Dollar Arm and many more. Skip the Dishes uses his popularity as a celebrity to attract new consumers, this is called star power. Star power is when “celebrities have [an effect] on our consumer decision making” (Niosi, n.d.). Consumers trust Jon Hamm’s reviews of Skip The Dishes because he appears familiar and trustworthy.  Many brands use star power since so many people have a desire to behave and be like celebrities.

Social Norms   

Image showing a group of friends smiling and talking to one another.

Our social norms, which are also known as the “accepted informal group rules and standards that guide our behaviour” (Niosi, n.d.)  also changed during the pandemic when it came to socializing with friends and eating out together. Being safe during the pandemic involved wearing masks and keeping a social distance of two meters between others. Being social and sharing food with others no longer meant being crowded around a table at a restaurant: it now meant we had to eat our own food outdoors apart from one another.

On one occasion, I went to an empty parking lot with other friends (in their own vehicles) to park our cars in a circle and eat our own food. Doing this kind of a thing pre-pandemic would have made us look suspicious or unruly but the our changing social norms over the last year and a half made this kind of behaviour not only acceptable, but also responsible. This became our new social norm where we could all be safe and social at the same time without making physical contact.

Brand Communities

Image of "Discord" brand logo.

The pandemic required people to stay at home for extended periods of time. This led to an increased usage of communication services and peripherals such as microphones, cameras, etc. I became a frequent user of Discord. Discord is made up of millions of servers that are used to communicate with friends, family, co-workers and complete strangers. According to BusinessOfApps, the “usage has catapulted during the COVID-19 lockdown, it recently announced over 100 million MAUs (monthly active users) and a new peak of 10.6 million concurrent users.” Many discord servers are brand communities, which are represented by people who are “passionate and enthusiastic consumers who are bonded together by their interest in a brand or product. (Niosi, n.d.). The pandemic isolated a lot of people and the need for human interaction is still desperately needed. Discord uses consumers with common values and a love of specific products (free and paid alike) and supports community building while further promoting the products and services that people purchase.

Cognitive Dissonance

Image of "Amazon" brand logo on a smartphone mobile web page.

I worked at Amazon for one month and I can say firsthand that their priority is the products and not the people. Cognitive dissonance is when my actions and beliefs conflict with one another (Niosi, n.d.). Because of my experiences at Amazon, I am often faced with cognitive dissonance when I need or want to purchase an item but don’t want to support a company that treated me poorly. I resolve this as much as possible by ordering directly from other companies’ websites or by buying locally. I will also use lateral cycling, “a more sustainable act of disposal than just throwing something away” (Niosi, n.d.) by purchasing used or previously owned products instead of new.

Disposable Products

Photograph of a pile of disposable blue/white face masks.

Something that seems to have gone unnoticed by the general public is the impact that billions of disposable products – products that get discarded immediately after use (Niosi, n.d.) – such as masks, gloves and other PPE, have had on our environment. Some people buy reusable masks and practice conscientious consumerism, which is when “consumers … act with a heightened sense of awareness, care, and sensitivity in their purchasing decisions.” (Niosi, n.d.). The pandemic increased the amount of packaging needed to get products delivered to us and we need to be environmentally conscious about the impact of these products and disposable PPE that are left to pollute the environment. When I walk around outside and I see masks and gloves lying on the ground I am disappointed in the carelessness of others and their disregard for the safety of others and the planet. I have since chosen to buy reusable, environmentally friendly products that help keep the environment clean and reduce their impact on climate change. 

By Evan Strain (2021, August)

Media Attributions

Text Attributions

  • Niosi, A. (n.d.). Introduction to Consumer Behaviour is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA-4.0.


Currey, D. (MAY 6, 2021). Discord Revenue and Usage Statistics (2021). Retrieved on July 19th, 2021 from




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