Influence Central fielded an in-depth survey on consumer behavior changes around Covid-19 in September 2020, hearing from 740 consumers, this survey re-asked many of the questions in a similar survey with 700 consumers on March 30, 2020 at the beginning of U.S. shutdowns around the pandemic.
The emerging story from both surveys illuminates how the changes in consumer behavior that developed during the pandemic have now become ingrained into the new normal that will outlast the pandemic’s ending. For instance, as consumers took to their kitchens when the pandemic first shut down restaurants, fast food and take-out options, people have shifted to home cooked meals as a way of life and recipes still top the content consumers most crave. Even with grocery stores and retail opening back up, e-commerce has become the preferred mode to shop, whether shipping items to one’s home or picking them curbside up at a brick and mortar location. An intense tune-in to both media and social media has been sustained and moved from primarily escapism to at-home entertainment and connectivity.
As the pre-COVID frenzy of everyday lives has subsided, people delved into sprucing things up at home, from DIY fix ups up around the house to gardening, re-decorating, vegetable growing and crafting. There’s more time for family conversations, checking in on relatives and friends, and cultural immersions into exciting new TV series and books. Parents have more months stretching ahead of them with a mixture of virtual learning, and a struggle within two career couples to get their work done, especially as isolated older parents can no longer help with childcare. A sense of consumer panic has settled into frustrated acceptance, from the shut-down in live spectator sports to much reduced holiday gatherings due to COVID, less long-distance travel and impacted family budgets amid layoffs. It’s no wonder many consumers believe we’re headed into an economic recession.
What started in the panic of the pandemic has emerged the new normal with the following lasting changes in consumer behavior and expectations for brands emerging.
CONSUMER PURCHASING HABITS: A CONTINUING EVOLUTION A COMPARISON FROM MARCH TO SEPTEMBER 2020
MOVE AWAY FROM BRAND NAMES TO GENERIC
As of September, only 18% of consumers reported being willing to pay for a brand-name label versus a generic one. This represent just a sliver of an increase back toward brand-name preference since March when only 12% of consumers said they’re very willing to pay for a preferred brand-name label versus a generic.
58% of consumers share that they’ve switched over to more generic brands over the course of the pandemic. This compares to 29% willing to do so at the start of COVID-19. The primary reasons for doing so:
WHAT CONSUMERS MOST WANT FROM BRANDS
It is important for brands to recognize the anxiety held by consumers surrounding the economy. 85% of survey respondents believe we are heading toward a recession. 44% of consumers are increasingly worried about their short-term finances, compared to 58% greatly worried about their long-term finances. In light of economic anxieties, consumers first and foremost want deals and cost savings, coupled with a give back component and strong customer support.
DEALS & COST SAVINGS
On COVID’s onset in March, 88% of consumers most valued cost-saving promotions from brands. These brand discounts, deals, and freebies, and cost saving promotions still hold great value to consumers.
SEPTEMBER 2020 MARCH 2020
Cost-saving promotions 87% 88%
Seek deals 86% 86%
Freebies 84% 83%
Discounting 85% 82%
BRAND BEHAVIORS CONSUMERS MOST VALUE
In March brands that positively stand out to consumers are focused on their consumers' needs during a difficult, unprecedented time, and now six months later consumers expect less on this front from brands.
SEPTEMBER 2020 MARCH 2020
Customer support 56% 61%
Responsible messaging 48% 58%
Give back component 46% 38%
Charitable contributions 41% 54%
BRANDS THAT IMPRESSED CONSUMERS
Of brands that have positively impressed you during the pandemic, what did they stand out for?
SEPT 2020 MARCH 2020
Changes to their normal business to help customers 51% 55%
Providing a Necessary Service 45% 56%
Charitable Actions 30% 37%
Helping take minds off crisis 22% 31%
Humor/ comedic relief 21% 21%
No brands have impressed me 24% 20%
Dislike brands going quiet 29% 29%
Indifferent 53% 59%
Like hearing from brands now 9% 10%
SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS WHERE CONSUMERS MOST WANT TO HEAR FROM BRANDS
SEPT 2020 MARCH 2020
Facebook 67% 65%
Instagram Feed 35% 32%
Instagram Stories 18% 16%
Twitter 26% 26%
TikTok 14% 2%
YouTube 14% 14%
Blogs 19% 14%
Websites 54% 53%
CONTENT CONSUMERS MOST CRAVE
SEPT 2020 MARCH % CHANGE
New and interesting recipes 54% 44% + 18%
Recipes that involve just a few ingredients 53% 57%
Healthy snacking ideas 48% 43%
How to use pantry staples to cook 45% 49%
Healthy recipes 41% 34% + 17%
Home organizing and cleaning projects 40% 48%
Movie and TV show reviews and suggestions 38% 48%
Humor 38% 48%
Home arts and crafts ideas 33% 45%
Home fitness activities 35% 43%
Best practices for improving mental health 31% 36%
Education content and virtual learning 29% 44%
At home beauty and self-care 29% 30%
LOCAL BUSINESS SUPPORT
56% of consumers favor local business options as a result of the pandemic and share that 81% of these businesses now offer delivery and pick up options which makes things easier.
PERCEPTION OF THE ECONOMY
When it comes to how consumers feel about the economy 6 months into the pandemic:
SEPTEMBER 2020 DEMOGRAPHICS
Under $19,999 3.7%
$20,000 - $29,999 4.7%
$30,000 - $39,999 7.6%
$40,000 - $49,999 7.1%
$50,000 - $59,999 8.7%
$60,000 - $74,999 10.6%
$75,000 - $99,999 16.5%
$100,000 - $149,999 16.5%
$150,000 - $199,999 4.8%
Over $200,000 4.4%
Prefer not to disclose 13%
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