COVID-19 Pandemic: Live Consumer Panel #1 – Five Takeaways

Filed Under: Shopper


Kat Figatner

Senior Vice President, In-Person Qualitative Research

On March 26, 2020, we hosted our first live Consumer Roundtable discussion to take a pulse on consumers’ evolving attitudes and behaviors during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are five takeaways of what we learned: 

1.    Staying at home means more meal preparation and creativity to use what’s available, but consumers are less picky at the grocery store: Homes are full, and consumers are eating three meals a day at home. While they feel they are spending more on groceries, they are shopping less frequently. Fewer trips to the store means they need to do more creative cooking with what’s on hand. When consumers get a chance to shop, they are changing their decision factors, worrying less about price and more about what’s in stock, placing greater importance on shelf-life. Sheltering in place has also driven experimentation with grocery delivery services. Consumers are willing to pay a premium, including big tips, to keep their family at home and safe.

“It’s like Chopped. I have this, this and this, what do I make?”
“I’m not price comparing anymore.”
“I used to buy and eat fresh fruit and meat, now I buy frozen berries. I can’t find eggs anywhere. It was my son’s birthday; it was like back on the prairie, we had eggs on a special day. I never thought we’d live in this mindset.”
“I’m happy to pay someone to buy my groceries. I’ll pay the service charge – that is worth keeping family healthy and safe.” 

2.    Spending on “non-essential” items isn’t at a halt: Consumers are buying what’s needed to help them emotionally get through this crisis – from “quarantine ice cream” and splurging on craft supplies for their kids, to signing up for media streaming services and buying at-home fitness equipment. Without a commute taking up time in the day, consumers have increased their television viewing. However, one area where consumers are divided is skincare – either scaling back their routine with nowhere to go, or doing more time-intensive treatments.

“I don’t normally have time to sit down and watch anything. I’m caught up on all my shows. I’m not a big TV watcher because my life is busy. I’ve lost an hour commute so that’s added a few hours.”
“I ordered Hulu, Netflix and there’s 2000 hours of TV we haven’t seen. Now I can watch The Price is Right. Every movie I didn’t get to see, I’m going on Netflix to see.”
“I’m using more [skincare], face masks and things you never have time to apply. I have time to be at home and do that.”

3.    Celebrations and events like birthdays and graduations are being missed, but new ways of connecting virtually are helping in some cases. While there is sadness over not being in school and not being able to walk graduations and hold birthday parties, consumers are turning to digital methods to connect and socialize, and are getting creative with how to celebrate with others.

“My daughter is a senior in high school, and I was going to graduate with my master’s so we’re missing two graduations.” 
“I’m doing a lot of Zoom social happy hours with my friends.”
“We did a complete Zoom birthday party, local family and friends, distant family, we had 15 people through Zoom. A few people did a drive-by drop present off and wave hi from the street. He said it was his best birthday yet.”

4.    Comfort with future travel varies. Some are holding off on taking a trip until the fall, optimistically hopeful they can travel then, while others want to wait until there’s a vaccine. Opinions are split on the impact this pandemic will have on the travel industry, with some feeling it’s going to make travel safer and cleaner than before, with another hesitant to take any cruises in the future. 

“I went on a cruise right before and they were so good about cleaning every place we went. I’m hoping the cruise industry continues the practices they started. The first thing they did was take temperatures, there were hand sanitizers everywhere. I feel it’s safer than it ever was.”
“I’m not going to feel comfortable [with traveling] until the vaccination comes out.”

5.    Consumers see the silver lining in this time of crisis: togetherness on multiple levels. While there is frustration with observed hoarding and people not taking the pandemic seriously, overall, consumers are seeing good in this time of crisis. Not only are consumers enjoying more family time and time with pets, but they are also looking outside their homes. They are being more intentionally thoughtful and more forgiving to others (being understanding when customer service has a longer than usual wait time),and embracing this evolving sense of community. Many are supporting local businesses, such as buying restaurant gift cards to keep these businesses afloat, generously tipping their grocery shoppers, and keeping membership to local gyms even though they aren’t able to go. They are also appreciating the togetherness on a societal level and want to support the local and national companies that they see are behaving altruistically in this time of crisis. And, even more broadly, they feel positive that our collective time at home is benefiting the environment.  

“We’re walking more as a family. We’re active in other sports and scouting, but as a family we don’t have the time to do that. Now every day we’re going on a walk or we bike through the neighborhood.”
“There’s local companies delivering pizzas to hospital workers. I think that’s where we’re going to order from this week because of the good karma.” 
“Nature is healing itself from humans being inside. We need it with the climate change crisis.”

C+R’s take: Consumers are adaptive and taking control of their lives in this brave new world, but it’s not always easy. They welcome help with new ideas to create, connect, and stay healthy – both physically and mentally. What is their next “quarantine ice cream”? How can they get more creative in the kitchen using what they have on hand? What can help them keep up their social lives safely at a distance? How can they keep themselves and their kids sane?  Think about how your brand can provide a solution to consumers’ evolving needs.

Curious to hear more?  We hosted five more consumer panels in our Consumer Connections: The COVID-19 Chronicles series. Click here to watch our panel in this series or listen to the podcast and click here to read our Five Takeaways.

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