Consumers heeding COVID guidelines, but how have perceptions changed?

by | Apr 16, 2020 | Covid-19, Public Relations

New research from consumer intent firm Prosper Insights and Analytics points to several social and shopping behavioral changes that consumers have made since March when a national emergency was declared concerning the novel coronavirus disease outbreak.

Sweeping social and consumption changes may indicate a new direction is emerging for the marketplace. The data provides some insights into how the pandemic has affected the emotions, shopping patterns and social practices of Americans. These critical data points unfiltered straight from the consumer are the green shoots of change every business and even government official needs to take note of.

The continuous urging of compliance to the Coronavirus guidelines each day is showing traction among consumers.

A large majority of consumers are responding to the guidelines.

  • 72 percent agree/strongly agree with the belief that it is time to make self-sacrifices for the good of the country in order to defeat the pandemic.
  • 71 percent of all people 18+ are practicing social distancing and for those over 65 years old is even higher at 84.7 percent while those 35-44 years old is 58.9 percent.
  • 74 percent report they are avoiding shaking hands but those 35-44 again lag at 64.9 percent
  • 77 percent meet the “washing hands more” often element of the Guidelines and those over 65 lead the way with 90.2 percent while only 64 percent of the 35-44 year olds practice this.
  • 62 percent say they are using a hand sanitizer more often with those 65+ at 68 percent and women trail close behind at 66.4 percent.
  • Wearing a mask in public was recently recommended by the CDC as part of the Guidelines and 23.9 percent say they are already doing so and interestingly 30.1 percent of those in the 18-24-year-old age group are doing so.

The emotional impact is being felt through several areas of people’s lives

  • 79 percent in April are extremely concerned/very concerned about the coronavirus which jumped from March when 44.9% said same.
  • 33 percent are anxious about contracting the coronavirus and the 18-24 year olds are most anxious 36.2% followed by 65+ 33.7 percent.
  • 15 percent know someone who has or had the coronavirus with 18-24 being the age group with highest percentage 17.6 percent and 65+ lowest 9.5 percent.
  • 2 percent report they have tested positive led by the 35-44-year-old cohort 5.3 percent testing positive.
  • 22 percent say they are experiencing anxiety from being confined to their house, 18-24 year olds are most anxious 32.7 percent and 65+ least anxious 16.4 percent. The Northeast is the most anxious from being confined to their homes 24.9 percent and those in South least anxious 19.4 percent.
  • 24 percent are praying more and focusing on spiritual guidance.
  • 19 percent worry about running out of money with 18-24 leading in money worries 32.4 percent and 65+ lowest 10.3 percent.
  • 10 percent are having trouble paying bills, 14.7 percent of 18-24 say same while 4.2 percent of 65+ are.
  • 44 percent now say they are very or somewhat pessimistic that the government will be able to solve the coronavirus issue, in March pessimism was 35.4 percent.

Views on the economy have also taken a drastic turn since March

  • 32 percent in April are confident/very confident in the economy, in March 53.6 percent were. However, the April reading is not as bad as the October 2008 confidence level which was at 19 percent confident/very confident.
  • 86 percent in April said yes to the Coronavirus impacting the economy a big jump from March’s 51.9 percent.
  • 18 percent say have been laid off during the coronavirus outbreak, and 25.7 percent of 18-24 year olds have been laid off.
  • 68 percent of those laid off are not receiving sick leave pay.
  • 17 percent used to work away from home but are now working from home.
  • 60 percent believe US companies have been too reliant on manufacturing critical products like medicines and medical equipment overseas.
  • 56 percent think the economy will rebound to pre-Covid-19 levels, 13.3 percent say it won’t, and 30.5 percent are uncertain.
  • 54 percent believe it will take from 7 months to 2 years for the economy to recover.

April shopping behaviors have also changed from March driven by consumer concerns

  • 72 percent of the concerned consumers in April are shopping less in stores in March only 23.9 percent said same.
  • 37 percent of the concerned consumers in April are shopping online more versus only 17.7% said they were in March. Also, over 40 percent of 18-44 year olds are shopping online more.
  • 30 percent plan to shop more online in the future, even 28.3 percent of those 65+ say so and 33.8 percent of 18-24 year olds.
  • 49 percent agree/strongly agree that their purchasing behaviors in the future will change and the biggest groups for change are those 35-44 and women.

Social distancing—a word not in the vernacular until March—may have long term impact

  • 52 percent believe social distancing in the workplace will become policy.
  • 55 percent agree/strongly agree they will change their social behaviors in the future, while 40.9 percent think things will go back to way they were before the pandemic.

“The responses from consumers provide signals for potential changes in the marketplace and socially. Leaders in business and public policy should pay close attention to the current state and future intentions of consumers. When the pandemic ends, and it will end, anticipating and planning for a new normal that may emerge led by the consumer will determine success.” said Phil Rist, VP of Prosper Insights & Analytics, in a news release.

Prosper Insights and Analytics conducted this survey of over 8200 consumers April 1-6.

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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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