Consumer Values and Behaviors Shift in Light of Global Pandemic – But Optimism Shines Bright

Consumer Values and Behaviors Shift in Light of Global Pandemic – But Optimism Shines Bright

May 13, 2020

By Shari Gold, Founder & CEO

As brands try to navigate through this turbulent time, some of the ‘wins’ will be experienced by direct-to-consumer brands that offer customized solutions. To remain relevant to consumers during this global pandemic, it’s never been more important to really understand your target audiences and strike the right tone with approach and messaging.

A lot has changed in the global economy in the past few weeks, but one thing is clear: a high amount of uncertainty remains. GOLD wanted to check the pulse of American consumers to gauge how they were feeling two months into the largest economic and health crisis of the last century. We wanted to understand how they believed their values or behaviors were shifting, what they were doing to get by day-to-day, and learn more about when they see their lives and spending habits returning to (a new version of) normal.

GOLD commissioned original research to help brands keep abreast of changing consumer sentiment and behavior. The online study was conducted by Pollfish, a market research platform. Respondents were composed of a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18 – 54. The survey was fielded from April 16 – 22 with a margin of error of +/-4 at a 98% confidence level.

In general, more than 1 in 3 survey respondents reported being negatively impacted financially by the pandemic at the time of the survey (job loss, furlough, partial lost wages, lost business); 5% of respondents personally, or someone in their family tested positive for COVID-19; and 10% of those 45+ years old knew someone personally who had passed away from the disease.

Below are some of the key findings:

  • More than 80% of consumers put spending on pause
    • Vacations/hospitality (48%), dining and entertainment (32%), clothing and jewelry (26%), dental/orthodontic work or other self-improvement programs (22%), and automobiles (21%) were the hardest hit
  • But Americans are optimistic about when they believe their personal spending will pick up
    • 49% cite by back to school and another 23% by the holidays
  • They are also optimistic about when they believe their lives will return to some sense of normalcy
    • 30% cite by summer; 69% by fall and 24% by the new year
  • Gratitude has been a beautiful side effect of this disease
    • #1 family and friends, #2 my health, #3 my faith
  • Consumers who took life’s everyday activities and people for granted say they won’t anymore
    • 51% dining out; 46% daily errands, 37% family, 32% travel, 30% friends, 29% special celebrations, 28% first responders & healthcare workers and 25% behind-the-scenes essential workers
  • Usually reserved for seniors, feeling grateful for one’s own good health is a universal sentiment felt by all ages now, ranking #2 only to gratitude for family & friends
  • Videoconferencing and streaming media have been the biggest winners of the pandemic
    • Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and other streaming entertainment services were cited as the #1 diversion to keep entertained
    • 1/3 of all consumers had never used videoconferencing services such as Zoom before, and 1 out of 4 expects it to be a regular addition to his/her life post-pandemic
  • Many consumers who had never used online apps or tools now expect to continue their new-found behaviors post pandemic
    • The top-four winners in order are: videoconferencing, telemedicine visits, online curbside grocery pickup services, and online meal delivery apps
  • Gen Z more than millennials or any other age group are feeling the loss of daily activities.
    • Out of five age groups, Gen Z ranked #1 in missing: spending time with family and friends, live entertainment, special occasions, dating, going to the gym, or even getting a haircut or pampering service
    • This cohort also ranked highest for being bored
  • Being shut in may have helped slow down the spread of the virus but it impacted emotional health
    • 42% of all respondents cited being bored, and 27% noted feeling depressed
  • To stay busy, consumers say their sanity was saved during stay-at-home orders by:
    • 57% streaming entertainment; 43% taking care of themselves through exercise, walks or meditation; 40% baking
  • Do-it-yourself projects came to the rescue to fill the hours
    • Above reading, board games, and puzzles
    • Significantly more so with 18-24 year-olds than any other age group
  • The “new normal” may look very different after the country opens up
    • 72% will continue to frequently wash hands/use hand sanitizer
    • 56% will avoid shaking hands
    • 55% of the population will avoid crowds and 54% will keep 6’ distance from others
    • 41% will avoid mass transit
    • 35% will fly less or avoid air travel altogether

Despite living in a time with the greatest turbulence since the Great Depression, Americans are showing resilience, optimism and new-found gratitude for simple, everyday activities and quality time with loved ones. They want to return to a life that feels more normal than the one we’ve been living in, and they want to get back to working and shopping. But they are cautious and know that the future looks different than the past. They expect to employ safe behaviors for the foreseeable future and use technology more than ever to stay in touch, stay fed and be entertained.

Finding the right message and tonality to emotionally connect with critical audiences has been our specialty for almost 20 years. Over the past two months, we’ve observed brands that have won in the court of public opinion and others that have appeared tone deaf or undifferentiated from anyone else in their category.

All of us at GOLD look forward to helping clients navigate the new normal as our country starts to re-open in the coming weeks.