COVID-19 Impact on Canadian Consumer Behaviour: Making the Most of an Unforeseen Situation

Understanding the effects of the pandemic on behaviours towards consumer technology services and finding new pillars to build on with IDC Canada's Manish Nargas

Business Strategy for the "Next Normal"

While the last five months have been far from 'the comfort zone' for most B2C and B2B2C facing businesses – the steep curve that Canadian businesses have been forced to learn at and re-deploy a "next normal" business strategy (irrespective of the size of the company) – has arguably geared them up for a brighter future.

Some companies have used this time to recognize and cull historical redundancies to help mitigate immediate operational costs and may have also realized new or improved omni-channel opportunities – reaching new consumer audiences and creating new revenue-generating streams. Whilst these changes have been far from easy; we expect that companies (in hindsight) will benefit by doing so in the longer term. Canadian businesses should dig in deep to keep the lights on, to survive the impending shorter-term economic downturn, the tighter consumer wallets first, while navigating the "next normal" consumer behaviours.

Impact on Consumer Technology Spend

With regards to technology and associated services, respondents of our most recent survey results reported that on average the COVID-19 pandemic (and its subsequent restrictions) has left an adverse impact on the household income and buyer behavior towards certain consumer technology services and devices. However, a generally high tolerance and comfort level was reported with household spend towards technology-related devices, services, software, and apps. Not only are some services and devices proving to be resilient; our survey results and Canadian forecasts expect certain services and devices are to record growth as a result of the pandemic, either in terms of adoption or increased spend. 

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Residential Internet

If it wasn’t already considered a 'must-have' or cornerstone service; the pandemic has served as a strong reminder of how essential being 'connected' is - working and entertaining at home would simply not have been possible for the majority of Canadians without a strong, robust and 'fast enough' internet infrastructure. While the concerns around the increased network traffic and the subsequent load on the internet servers across Canada were very real, so much so, that some services were throttled down to ensure network integrity - in general, Canadian Internet service providers and their networks proved to be up to the task.

The strong well understood value proposition of residential internet and its now reinforced integral nature to keep Canadians ticking has led to increased investment and sped up timelines to commoditize internet access across the large Canadian geography, especially through services like Fixed Wireless Internet. In fact, Bell Canada alone reported adding internet access to 137K more homes than previously anticipated in April alone. More Interestingly, these services and the associated backhaul fiber infrastructure are integral to service providers deploying next-gen wireless services that will support larger-scale IoT, autonomous vehicles, etc. As a result, Canada may have just leapfrogged a few milestones in the 'connected' journey.

TV and OTT Video Services

Although, globally TV and OTT video services are often seen as competing services; in Canada, they are still reported to be rather complementary in nature. If anything, this pandemic has brought more eyes back to TV services, especially as parents and families looked to entertain themselves while being asked to stay-at-home. While we recognize that some of these behaviours may be temporary (and that 'naysayers' or the TV cord-cutters may stay resolute), this rejuvenated TV viewership may prove invaluable in tempering the decline of TV video subscribers, albeit with some expected cord shaving. Service providers are encouraged to make the most of this unique opportunity to win over audiences and their consumer spend by considering options such as:

  • Repackaging BDU TV video content to offer new application-based TV service offerings with easy hardware-less installations which are inherently contactless (and lower cost).
  • Embracing changing consumer consumptions behaviours with regards to OTT video, and offering deeper content integration and less frictional experiences on TV service hardware where possible, i.e. to keep consumer eyeballs accessing all their video content irrespective of source on TV service platforms, as opposed to looking elsewhere.

Building Pricing and Promotions

While navigating these tides of change and making the most of this unforeseen situation may be easier for some businesses as compared to others; building pricing and promotions on/or adjacent to these reinforced pillars (read: products and services) may be crucial to short term success. But... be wary to think beyond the short-term losses to help you plan for longer-term wins – as consumers and businesses alike get accustomed to what is now a "next normal".

Explore The Future of Customers and Consumers: Loyalty is key in a competitive market and  businesses will benefit from the knowledge that every customer experience matters. Download our new eBook The Future of Customers and Consumers: Creating Loyalty Through Empathy at Scale to explore the opportunities the future of customers and consumers brings to both technology suppliers and business leaders.

About the Author

Manish Nargas

Senior Analyst, Consumer and Mobile Research

IDC Canada

Canadian Mobile Consumer and Connected Life



Cristina Santander

Manager, Marketing & Customer Experience