The Four COVID Personas, Part 2: ‘Safety Shifters’


“The truth is that consumers’ attitudes about the COVID-19 pandemic vary dramatically by their personal circumstances and preferences. Some are working professionals who have been lucky to operate remotely and are now eager for reasons to leave their homes. Others are still so worried about the risk of contagion that they refuse to go out for even basic purchases such as groceries.”

So begins The Great Reopening: Shifting Preferences edition of PYMNTS’ COVID-19 report series, which zeros in on how much attitudes lead to behavioral changes, with or without government intervention.

Surveying 14,000 consumers starting in late March and continuing through lockdowns, our researchers found four new personas had surfaced that define the digital shift. One is the “safety shifter.”

As classified by PYMNTS, “safety shifters” are consumers who have embraced digital channels to buy groceries and other products and are more concerned about contracting the virus than other cohorts. As the label implies, ‘safety shifters’ fear COVID-19 so much that it continues to disrupt their lives.

“[Safety shifters] seem to be less likely to want to leave the safety and comfort of their homes,” per the findings, with just 30.5 percent saying they are “very” or “extremely interested” in resuming pre-pandemic routines like shopping in stores, or even going outside without a good reason.

“Safety shifters are among the least likely to say they want to go back out for social reasons like work or travel. Our research shows only 47.8 percent of safety shifters who are interested in leaving their homes say it is because they would like to travel within the U.S. again, compared to 55.8 percent of social and 59.5 percent of convenience shifters.”

An important thing to note about safety shifters is their love of ecommerce and contactless delivery. According to The Great Reopening: Shifting Preferences, “Consumers who have gone online to do their grocery shopping are the most likely to say they consider it crucial that merchants provide digital alternatives. Our survey shows 52.3 percent of safety shifters feel it is ‘very’ or ‘extremely important’ for merchants to provide such options going forward.”