Post-COVID consumer optimism, anxiety and resilience: What communicators need to know

by | Jun 15, 2021 | Public Relations

We’re finally moving out of the COVID darkness and back to a brighter, more “normal” world, so it’s a perfect time to evaluate how consumers are thinking now and how they have adapted their shopping behaviors and lifestyles. New research from marketing solutions firm Vericast shares insights for marketers that provide a noteworthy glimpse into consumers’ cautious optimism about the year ahead.

Based on responses from over 1,000 U.S. adults about their current circumstances and behavior as well as their outlook, a majority believe that life will get better and return to some kind of normal in the coming year. Most are expecting the changes resulting from COVID-19 to remain, according to findings shared in the firm’s newly released 2021 Consumer Optimism Outlook Study.

Of course, there is nuance to this generally positive outlook

Consumers are divided along generational lines. Baby boomers represent the smallest share of respondents who are optimistic that life will return to normal this year (39 percent), while 55 percent of millennials and 59 percent of millennial parents feel that it will.

Post-COVID consumer optimism, anxiety and resilience: What communicators need to know

The study also reveals new shifts in brand loyalty, confirming that consumers increasingly want to feel a sense of consistency and trust with the brands they choose to purchase from. The share of consumers that said they are more likely to purchase from a brand or store they trust has significantly increased from 71 percent in 2019 to 76 percent in 2021. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts and sustainability matter now more than ever as well, with 54 percent of respondents saying they are more likely to be loyal to a brand that has sustainable and ethical business practices.

Post-COVID consumer optimism, anxiety and resilience: What communicators need to know

“Consumers want to be optimistic, but at the same time, there’s reticence,” said Sarah O’Grady, vice president of brand marketing at Vericast. “To successfully engage with consumers in their current state of mind, brands should offer them familiarity, authenticity and meaningful savings due to the economic disruption caused by the pandemic. Digital will continue to grow in importance, but so will the value of personal connections. Marketers can win with messaging rooted in humanity, via channels that cut through the noise in the moments that matter.”

Post-COVID consumer optimism, anxiety and resilience: What communicators need to know

Additional takeaways from the study include:

Economic disruption is affecting consumer outlook and spending

  • Nearly half of consumers said their income was negatively impacted by COVID in 2020 and the vast majority of those expect the impact to continue in 2021.
  • There was an increase from 23 percent in 2020 to 31 percent in 2021 in the number of consumers who consider themselves price-conscious while shopping for consumer packaged goods (CPG) and groceries.
  • A majority (72 percent) of consumers increased their saving behaviors during COVID and almost all of them plan to continue the habit.
  • With money tight for many consumers, communicating with deals, savings and benefits will be key.

Consumers have acclimated to life at home and staying local

  • Almost two-thirds of consumers said they are content with staying home more and 61 percent are watching more streaming videos and TV shows.
  • 65 percent of consumers feel it’s important to support local restaurants.
  • Marketers should focus efforts on engaging with consumers in home through channels like direct mail, Connected TV (CTV) and online, with offers that are nearby and local.

Post-COVID consumer optimism, anxiety and resilience: What communicators need to know

Download the full report here.

The study was fielded by Valassis Feb. 18, 2021 through March 4, 2021 in conjunction with a global, third-party market research firm with proficiency in internet surveys. The sample is nationally representative and was derived from an online consumer opinion panel, and all participants were at least 18 years of age and living in the contiguous United States. The survey was closed once 1,004 completed responses had been reached.

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 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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