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Seven Findings, Seven Areas of Interest

And Implications for Consumer Insights Leaders

Four weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, and plenty has already been said about current consumer behaviors and immediate actions in the aftermath of most of the global shutdown. However, not much has been reported about the psychology of people; their fears, hopes, stress management, and maybe most importantly the way they view the future ahead. 

So, what’s to come after this is all over? What ‘normal’ will consumers go back to?

The following study was done across a multitude of industries, exploring the state of mind of those of us, sorry, all of us staying at home. It explores how this situation is impacting their discoveries, health, coping, education, and consumption patterns. Responses were captured from 1,000 U.S. based consumers, representative of the general population.

1. General Consumer Comfort Levels for Social Activities

When it comes to the concern of contracting Coronavirus, 66% reported being either concerned or really concerned. When asked how much stress and anxiety they had in their life right now, across all consumers, the average was 5.9 out of 10.

We then asked for their feedback in the following scenario, “…when the CDC, Health Officials, and the Government announce that it is SAFE to stop social distancing and resume to our “new normal” lives, assuming your income is intact, we would like to ask you about the comfort you would feel with the following activities…”

Respondents were asked on a 5-point scale from Disagree to Agree, to what extent they would be comfortable engaging in various activities.  

I would feel comfortable going to/riding/flying, etc.

Gatherings of Family and Friends followed by going to Restaurants & Bars were the two activities that respondents reported they would feel most comfortable to resume once health officials announce it is safe to go back.

As expected, activities that include large(er) crowds, such as going to casinos, live concerts, and attending live sporting events will be the last for the general U.S. population to feel comfortable with.

While the level of discomfort remains consistently high across all age categories, younger respondents, ages 18 to 38 (Gen Z and Millennials), tended to report anywhere between 3% to 10% higher comfort levels.

Consumer Insight implications:  Target younger segments and small group events

If your business involves any type of group setting, to the extent your business model allows it, explore options and offerings you can provide to younger audiences. Explore what you can offer for small groups events and gatherings.

2. Brand Advertising and Outreach

When we asked consumers if they think it is appropriate for brands to be advertising their products and services during this time of COVID-19, 61% thought it was appropriate, 32% felt ambivalent, and only 7% thought it was inappropriate. Perhaps this will evolve as people accept this lockdown and situation the longer it plays out.  

More specifically into this topic, 53% were interested in hearing about new product offerings, 63% were interested to hear about any changes in pricing, and 55% were interested to learn more about new delivery options and offerings.

Consistent with this finding, when asked “What do you think are some of the best things brands can do for their customers at this time?”, approximately 35% of respondents wrote about a brand’s capability and willingness to offer products and services that fit within the price they can afford (e.g. lower prices, discounts, new offers, etc.), followed by 10% voicing the need for brands to have or develop delivery options.

Many of the remaining open-ended answers included themes around making sure the brands are having their products available, taking care of their employees, offering coupons, and providing good customer services.

Consumer Insight implications: Follow-up with choice based studies

Getting the optimal pricing and product offering has always been critical to any organization. As consumers have become much more sensitive, it is now more important than ever that consumer insights teams identify price sensitivity across various population segments and identify optimal offerings and attributions.

There are two ways brands can address this:

1) Conduct price sensitivity segmentation studies to include survey and CRM data, or the combination of both

2) New studies utilizing conjoint and max-diff experiments (ideally with an automated solution!)

3. Alcoholic Beverage Shopping, A Time for Discovery

32% of respondents reported consuming more alcohol. Moreover, 29% reported shopping online for alcoholic beverages. Those on-line shoppers expressed a combination of shopping for familiar and also for new products. Because, if you’re drinking more, wine not try something different?!

Consumer Insight implications: What behaviors and products will stick?

On-line beverage shopping presents an opportunity for discovery. For the beverage industry, there is certainly some good news. Maybe it’s new ways of coping or maybe the lack of access to bars and restaurants, coupled with more free time that is facilitating some behavioral change?

For this one insight, as with any other scenario, industry, or product, follow-up studies are key to dig into the why behind the behavior change. One key insight presents opportunities for more discovery and understanding of your segments.

4. Food, Potential New At Home Behaviors

Across all food categories (canned, perishable, frozen, shelf-stable, bottled water/drinks) the results were more straightforward. In all categories, over 50% of consumers are still getting their products by physically going to the store.

The following three options for food purchasing were almost a tie across all categories: pick-up curbside from the store (13.8%), delivery from the store through their website (e.g. Publix app) (13.7%), order from a website/app and shipped to your home (e.g. Amazon) (9%). 59% of consumers are still buying the same food items they were buying pre-COVID-19, but 25% of people were buying new items.

Consumer Insight implications: What behaviors and products will stick?

Similar to the alcohol category, on-line/app options are an increasingly viable option for food shopping. How many of these users are new to these apps? Will this behavior stick when they are increasingly comfortable going out in public?

Digging into what items are being purchased that weren’t before could give some insight into what, and how, consumers are behaving at home and perhaps what new product ideas can meet these needs.

5. Health & Wellness

66% of respondents remain concerned about contracting the coronavirus in the upcoming three months. 50% report they are not likely to see their doctor in the next 4 weeks for routine check-ups for other ongoing conditions or regular visits.

When we asked respondents to select all the activities that are helping them manage stress, watching movies was the most prevailing activity (67%), followed by staying connected to family and friends (57%), and snacking (44%).

Lastly, 53% of respondents reported being comfortable with Telehealth/Telemedicine, suggesting that this trend will continue and be on the rise.

This is another data point that begs the question of what behaviors that were ‘corona-induced’, will take hold and maintain once the economy is back-up and running?

Consumer Insight implications: Connection while being entertained is paramount

While the media and entertainment industry as a whole is currently struggling in this environment, content is still king. Consumers seem to still want to engage, but have alternative ways of doing so now. A follow-up to explore the various categories of entertainment content, across various audience segments would be worthwhile.

Not surprisingly, snacking is a major driver for stress management, yet many are trying to stay healthy by exercising. Good luck folks! And please share your tips if you manage to balance the two! But, the fact that two of the highest reported activities are snacking and staying healthy suggests that coming out of this many people may be seeking healthy options for snacking that can help them both manage stress and stay healthy.

Telemedicine seems here to stay, and it will become really important to understand all the human drivers, motivations, and challenges when it comes to adopting it at scale.

6. It is time for Education

During troubling economic times, those who can afford it, tend to explore expanding their education and professional development to strengthen their employment applications for when the market has recovered.

In the interest of better understanding the state of consumers’ career development, we asked “are you interested in pursuing further education/professional learning in the next 12 months?

Slightly over 39% expressed a form of interest in either on-line or on-site learning. And 44% reported having a strong interest to start further education as a direct result of the current pandemic.

Consumer Insight implications

The trend of on-line education will continue to accelerate. How fast and in what areas? There will be greater opportunities to developing proper and relevant content. It will be important to segment and find your optimal users. The on-line experience will need to be one that meets the consumer where they are and with whatever topics they deem interesting.

7. Environment & Electric Vehicles

Prior to COVID-19, significant conversations were already happening in all industries around sustainability, the environment, and how to change the behavior of everyday consumers to become more environmentally friendly.

One of the leading categories remains to be electric vehicles. Unfortunately, 77% of respondents reported not being willing to buy an all-electric car if they needed to purchase one. The three biggest reasons preventing them from buying a car were:

1) Too expensive (52%)

2) No place to charge in my area (39%)

3) The car’s range on a single charge (33%)

However, the close 4th reason people didn’t own one was lack of knowledge about electric cars to feel comfortable enough to purchase one (32%).

Consumer Insight implications: Educate the masses

Changing consumer perceptions on electric cars still has a long road ahead. Pricing remains to be the number one challenge, whether that’s valid or not. But as the responses show, the onus now may be on the electric vehicle manufacturers to increase their educational outreach.

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Only time will tell how we all, as consumers, will respond once we find ourselves back out in the economy in whatever form that takes. The only thing we are certain of now, is that we are uncertain.

So, we research. We engage people and ask questions and do our best to understand with the hope we can offer educated guesses as to what the future holds.

In the meantime, stay safe, healthy, and reach out if we can help you navigate and understand this current environment and prepare for what’s to come.

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