Consumer Attitudes and Behaviors: US
The Coronavirus pandemic has profoundly affected American consumers, with 89-91% indicating that the virus has impacted their shopping behavior. During the summer of 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, US consumers attitudes and shopping behaviors are expected to change in the following ways: changes in food spending, increased e-commerce, increase in sales for "new essentials", and new consumer expectations for shopping in-stores.
Food Spending Shifts
- In response to the Coronavirus and the supply-chain stresses that it has caused, many consumers are turning to local producers for their food needs.
- This trend is expected to continue throughout the summer, as consumers postpone travel outside their local areas. Instead, consumers are expected to visit local farmers markets and farm stands instead as part of their more local travel and summer activities.
- There is also expected to be an increase in consumer interest in U-pick harvesting options, as they feel they are safer and more cost effective.
- Lastly, consumers are eating out less during the Coronavirus outbreak due to forced restaurant closures in most areas. While it is still unclear when restaurants will reopen, experts do believe that consumers will not return to eating out with the same frequency as prior to the pandemic right away. As such, it is reasonable to believe that consumers will eat out less during the summer of 2020. A consumer IPSOS poll found that 18% of consumers will eat out less than they did prior to COVID-19 even after the lockdown ends, at least for a few months. Another 38% indicated that they will eat out at the same level, but only once they are sure it is safe, which may be well after when the lockdown ends.
- One survey by Resonate found that 25% of Americans do not anticipate dining in a restaurant until 2021, while fewer than 33% expect to dine at a restaurant during or prior to the summer of 2020.
- Ecommerce has increased during the Coronavirus outbreak, with 43% of ecommerce merchants reporting increasing sales during the COVID-19 outbreak. This is because "52% of consumers are avoiding crowds and 32% are leaving their house less often because of coronavirus." Additionally, order value for ecommerce merchants has increased.
- Experts predict that this trend towards online shopping will continue indefinitely. However, in the short terms, while many consumers are still out of work due to the virus, some smaller online retailers selling discretionary items may see a decrease in sales.
- Some experts go as far as to predict that the Coronavirus-accelerated consumer shift towards ecommerce will lead to the closure of many brick-and-mortar stores and especially malls and shopping centers. While this trend was already occurring pre-Covid-19, the Coronavirus outbreak is expected to accelerate it.
- According to an IPSOS consumer survey, 37% of consumers indicate they "will wait until I’m sure it is safe" before they begin using malls and shopping centers post-Coronavirus, even if this means waiting until after the lockdown periods have passed. 18% indicate they will use shopping malls less, at least for a couple months, and 7% indicate they will never return to pre-Covid-19 levels of use.
- According to another survey completed by First Insight, "only 33% of consumers feel safe shopping in a mall" and only 45% feel safe at a big box store like Walmart or Target, even with Coronavirus restrictions lifting in some states.
- Based on the consumer surveys and expert predictions, it is likely that in the summer of 2020 ecommerce will continue to excel while in-store shopping is diminished.
- There has been an overall decline in consumer spending during the Coronavirus outbreak.
- Due to COVID-19, some retail segments — deemed the "new essentials" — are seeing increased sales during the outbreak. These categories include electronics, home improvement, housewares and garden, office supplies, toys and hobbies and sporting goods. Experts expect this trend of "new essentials" will continue.
- Apparel has seen a drastic decline during the Coronavirus outbreak, with clothing sales dropping 50-60%. While this decline is not expected to remain as drastic once stores begin to reopen (i.e. summer 2020), experts still predict a decline in apparel sales, as many of the events that spur new clothing purchases like weddings or trips are canceled. However, some apparel segments are doing quite well, specifically lounge wear, basics, and slip-on shoes.
- Many consumers have also been forced to try new brands during the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the Ipsos Coronavirus Consumer Tracker, 78% of consumers that tried a new brand or product during the Coronavirus outbreak will continue to use that brand/product after the virus ends.
- As consumers do return to normal, experts predict that they will still focus on essential purchases until the economy recovers from the impact of the virus and the unemployed are able to return to work.
- As consumers return to stores, they have different expectations than pre-COVID-19. According to an IPSOS poll, 37% of consumers would want nonessential stores to require everyone to wear masks once they reopen, in order to feel safe. 36% desire social distancing in-stores and the same percentage desire limits on how many people can enter the store at one time.
- Consumers also desire more frequent cleaning, including extra-deep cleaning, contactless transactions and/or mandatory glove wearing, and increased employee training.
- Consumers are also watching closely how brands are responding to the Coronavirus outbreak, and for 68% of Americans, this will impact their shopping choices in the future. Consumers want brands to appear empathetic in response to the crisis.
- RetailMeNot shopping and trends expert Sara Skirboll states: "As the situation starts to stabilize, shopping in-store will likely forever be changed with potentially different payment methods that don't involve touch screens or cash, less physical contact with people and hand-sanitizing stations in most physical locations. All of these changes might ultimately affect the in-store shopping experience and may push shoppers towards online retailers."
No publications were found that focused specifically on COVID-19's impact on consumer sentiment during summer 2020. However, the research team was able to find consumer sentiment shifts due to COVID-19 that will likely continue in the future and/or once Covid-19 imposed lock downs have been lifted. These have been presented above, as summer 2020 is still in the future.