Consumer behavior in the coronavirus crisis—new insights on the impact of COVID-19

by | Mar 26, 2020 | Covid-19, Public Relations

As retail marketers continue to brainstorm their way through this unprecedented crisis, it’s a good time to evaluate what consumers are thinking—what they’re buying now, how they’re buying it, what they’re notbuying, and how long they think the crisis will last.

New research from on-demand consumer insights platform Suzy, included in a recent presentation given by CEO and founder Matt Britton, offers new insights on the effects that coronavirus is having on consumer behavior and sentiment across the United States.

Consumer behavior in the coronavirus crisis—new insights on the impact of COVID-19

Concern is setting in

Overall, 71 percent of Americans are now “very concerned” about the news surrounding COVID-19, compared to 47 percent who said the same thing two weeks ago.

Fifty-nine percent `of consumers now believe the COVID-19 crisis will last up to three months; 25 percent believe the crisis will last four to six months, and 10 percent believe it will last over six months.

Consumer behavior in the coronavirus crisis—new insights on the impact of COVID-19

Purchasing trends are changing

Fifty-four percent of consumers are no longer considering the purchase of big-ticket items (homes, cars, trips, luxury goods) over the next three months. Instead, consumers are focusing on two tiers of consumable products, which Britton has deemed the “Survival” tier and the “Sanity” tier:

Consumer behavior in the coronavirus crisis—new insights on the impact of COVID-19

Where consumers are buying their products has also changed. Over the last two weeks, consumers are beginning to fear crowding and lack of inventory, and said they are shopping less at wholesale and big box retailers (at a decrease rate of 33 percent and 35 percent, respectively).

Consumer behavior in the coronavirus crisis—new insights on the impact of COVID-19

Meanwhile, despite concerns about deliverability of packages, online shopping has increased 31 percent in the past two weeks; visits to local grocery stores have increased 28 percent.

Consumer behavior in the coronavirus crisis—new insights on the impact of COVID-19

Fast food Is thriving—for now

Interestingly, 38 percent of consumers said that they’ve been visiting quick service restaurants more in the past week, possibly as an alternative to sit-down restaurants.

Franchises with the highest increase in visits include:

  • McDonald’s: 58 percent
  • Dunkin’ Donuts: 40 percent
  • Burger King: 38 percent
  • Starbucks: 36 percent
  • Wendy’s 35 percent
  • Chipotle: 35 percent

However, this might not be the case for long; 42 percent of consumers said that they do not trust the safety of any food prepared by QSRs.

“With this survey, Suzy confirms the importance of listening to your customer—and that in times of uncertainty, there are opportunities for new leaders to emerge,” Britton said in a statement after the presentation’s release.

Consumer behavior in the coronavirus crisis—new insights on the impact of COVID-19

Britton also announced plans to provide more webinars in the future to continually update companies on how consumer behavior changes and evolves over the course of this crisis. In addition, the Suzy website is now home to a Consumer Insights Hub for information related to COVID-19, including blog posts, a sentiment tracker, links to past webinars, the latest statistics from Suzy’s real-time audience network, and more.

Access the full report here.

Part One of the “Coronavirus and the State of the U.S. Consumer” webinar series, which was presented on March 5th, can be found here.

The presentation, Coronavirus and the State of the U.S. Consumer, Part 2, was initially given on March 20th to business leaders across several key industries. Data was sourced from a census-weighted panel of 866 consumers on the Suzy platform, and collected in real time between March 18th and March 19th.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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