Data Discoveries

Date: 21 July, 2020

Covid-19 Emotion Tracker. How do we really feel –

Lucy Remitz
Janine McBennett

By Lucy Remitz & Janine McBennett

Strategist & Data and Insight Analyst
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Welcome back to ‘How Do We Really Feel?’, where we dig deep into the nation’s feelings using our self-taught AI mood tracker along with our weekly focus groups.

SMEs are a huge part of our economy and how they’re doing points to how we as a country are doing. While everyone has been affected by the year’s events, SME owners in particular are at a clear crossroads.

This week, we take a look at this audience to sense-check how they’re feeling, what’s on the horizon, and indications moving forward. Read on for the five key take-outs from our conversations with business owners.

1A contingency for the contingency

Uncertainty was palpable across all conversations. No matter the industry, everyone was at a loss about what’s going to happen and what they can do about it. There was comfort in knowing that everyone is in the same boat - but it meant many business plans are out the window.

2High anxiety

Because of this uncertainty, the level of anxiety was incredibly high for this audience. Without solid plans, it’s difficult for them to get loans or project the future beyond the next few months. In addition to this, most SMEs told us they were close with their employees and not having answers for them was cause for stress. Many SMEs realised their impact on the economy as well, worried about the ripple effect on the community from their staying closed.

3The gift of time – reflect and pivot

The past few months offered us time to slow down and reflect. This was welcome in some ways. Normally, this group is snowed under day-to-day and spending all their energy on their businesses, so a minute to re-evaluate was appreciated. While there was uncertainty, a sense of positivity and a feeling that they are becoming more efficient was felt too.

4When in doubt, adapt

While we talked to all different types of business owners, the consistent theme was the ability to adapt. Having a smaller business with less employees meant the ability to turn around quickly. That agility is paramount right now and is being baked into future plans. For example, one architecture firm we spoke with previously had focused on the travel industry; with the likes of hotels being their main clients. Now, they’re shifting focus to offices to design socially distant spaces.

5The future’s bright

Naturally, there was a lot of discussion around the future. With an impending recession on the horizon, this group wasn’t unaware of the global situation. Having been through a recession recently however, the conversations around this were overall positive, with some understanding what steps need to be taken. This feels different from the last crash – as it’s likely not just the EU who’s in it with us, but the world. Therefore, there was a lot of hope that we will actually weather the storm and come out stronger than we were before.

For the full research deck, relevant quotes and learnings – click here.

Emotion Tracker

With phase 3 of returning the country to normal well underway, and with news just out that phase 4 has been deferred a couple weeks, what has our mood been like as a nation? What are some of the key triggers affecting this? Let’s dive right in and see…

With phase 3 of returning the country to normal well underway, and with news just out that phase 4 has been deferred a couple weeks, what has our mood been like as a nation? What are some of the key triggers affecting this? Let’s dive right in and see…

As we can see from the latest instalment of our Mood Tracker above, there was a significant peak in optimism on the 7th of July at 9am, with the launch of the Covid-19 Tracker App. Users took to their social media platforms first thing in the morning to promote and encourage others to download the app, congratulating the Department of Health and the HSE, and stating

'this app will be huge in controlling this disease.'

This coming together and rallying on social has been something we have seen drive the optimism and pride in the country over the recent months, and once again this is another example of how we use social to unite and drive positive feeling during these turbulent times.

Another key point of conversation we are seeing over recent days surrounds the introduction of a restaurant deposit fee. While many restaurants have had to make this difficult decision to introduce a ‘deposit system’ or a ‘cancellation fee’ in order to combat no-shows, we are noticing that this is being met with a stark contrast of both reluctance, but also encouragement from consumers. One angry user took to Twitter to state,

'restaurants will be doing without my business, have never paid for a meal in a restautant in advance and won’t.'

Other users have 'zero issues with this' and see it as 'no big deal.'

One small restaurant business took to social to state that a weekend of no-shows was 'devastating' to them, and 'deeply inconsiderate.' This was met with hundreds of comments of support from users encouraging the deposit fee and reprimanding this ignorant behaviour of users not considering the effect of no-shows on business,

'such bad manners and little regard for all those working hard to keep customers safe and bring a little bit of joy back into our lives.'

While mostly positive, as mentioned there are some conflicting views to this, with some supporting this no-show behaviour,

'People are afraid of Covid 19. There is no guarantee that bars are safe. Not everything is about profits. 32 new cases today. It is still a serious virus. People have the right to be nervous,'

while others believe that

'loyalty to local businesses needs to be earned, not demanded.'

Many other small businesses offered words of support to their peers, fearing that by offering a deposit they come across as 'the worst in the world,' but that they 'just have to hope for the best in people during this diffcult time.'

It’s hard to avoid the real sense of ‘impending doom’ among users online at the moment – with phase 4 being pushed back, many are fearing that

'Ireland are definitely going to be hit with a new wave.'

This thought process is reflected in the mood tracker, where we are seeing relatively low levels of optimism among users over recent days, with anger and frustration taking its place. As mentioned in the previous edition, Travel continues to be a huge factor that is driving this unease and anger amongst users,

'we were told to hibernate for 3 months, now we’re being told to have staycations, but they’re letting any Tom Dick or Harry into the country.'

Some believe non-essential travel is

'a smack in the face to all of us who have lost loved ones during the pandemic'

and that

'stopping businesses from opening but letting anyone and everyone in is ridiculous.'

What is also interesting is the role that some believe marketing is playing at the moment when it comes to travel,

'I think in the society we've made, almost nothing taps into the reward centre of your brain like travel does. You can't make up for it in your home like a pub, or a restaurant, or a cinema. Marketing has literally convinced it's essential for our SOULS (and maybe it IS),'

but it is believed that

'tempting them at the cost of public health is deeply cruel.'

On the whole, it’s been an interesting few weeks of developments in the country as we further move through this 'new normal’, and we look forward (with a hint of apprehension…) to seeing what’s next. TBC.

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