As COVID-19 restrictions lessen, we might expect to see people rushing to return to their favorite in-person activities. However, research in consumer behavior shows that this isn’t likely.

If you ever took Marketing 101, you’ll have seen the “Five Stages of Consumer Adoption” process that includes Awareness, Interest, Evaluation, Trial, and Adoption. Marketing professionals have long known that when something “new” hits the market, people will “adopt” the new good or service at different rates. Take Zoom, for example. When Zoom meetings started, few people could conceive of replacing all in-person meetings with a Brady Bunch-style video conference call. The technology was confusing and unfamiliar to the average person. As the year went on, however, Zoom meetings became commonplace for both businesses and families. Once people became familiar with the technology and saw more people using it, they were far more comfortable making the switch. Even seniors are playing Zoom bingo. If you aren’t using zoom, you may be in the minority of your friends and colleagues.

By applying this same model to the return from COVD-19 restrictions, we can predict how people might behave. A small portion of the population will want to return to pre-pandemic activities the second they reopen. This will be especially true for businesses that have been closed for a while (like movie theaters). These groups are also less likely to be concerned with COVID warnings and are generally willing to take more risks. After a few weeks or so, “early adopters” (people who are a little more cautious) will start to go to restaurants and movie theaters again. Upon seeing people returning to normal, the vast majority of a popular will follow suit.

However, much like the “laggards” who bought their first computer relatively recently and still struggle with Zoom, there will be others who will need a lot of “convincing” to want to go out in public again. Even if the immediate threat of the virus has passed and businesses engage in appropriate safety measures, some people will just continue to wait.

Getting back to “normal” from an economic demand standpoint, it will take a bit longer than some business owners might expect. Not everyone is going to rush back right away. Adapting to new trends or circumstances takes people a long time.

Patience will be the key.

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