Apr 9, 2020

4/9 Update: The Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Consumer Behavior

coronavirus consumer behavior
To help support our clients during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Numerator will provide ongoing analysis into consumer behavior and sentiment by conducting a weekly survey of verified buyers.
The data in this post is from an earlier version of our COVID-19 Consumer Sentiment Survey. Click below to view the most recent version of these insights.




With the majority of the country now under stay-at-home orders, consumers are settling into a temporary normal that includes regular trips / online orders to replenish necessities and little else. Concern regarding Coronavirus rises once again this week, as does claimed impact on shopping behavior.

These concerns and claimed impacts vary significantly across income groups, a dynamic we dove into more deeply in this week’s analysis. The government stimulus package, which promises to help ease the financial burdens of millions, aims to get checks in the hands of Americans in the coming weeks. In addition to our standard questions this week, we asked consumers whether they anticipate receiving a stimulus payment, and how they intend to use the money.

2 in 3 consumers anticipate stimulus checks

Roughly two-thirds of those surveyed said they anticipated receiving a check as part of the government stimulus package, while nearly one-quarter were unsure whether or not they qualified. Among low income shoppers— for whom the check would be particularly critical— this level of uncertainty was even higher. Those expecting a stimulus check primarily intended to use it to pay bills or buy essential items; middle and high income shoppers were also likely to plan on investing the money or putting it into savings.

9 in 10 consumers have changed their shopping behavior as a result of Coronavirus

This week, 92% of consumers said their shopping behavior had been impacted by Coronavirus, up a bit from last week’s 89%. While we don’t expect any major changes in this number until stay-at-home orders are lifted, this week’s survey insights show us that even previously unimpacted consumers are beginning to feel the effect of COVID-19 on their shopping behaviors. 

While their levels of overall impact on shopping behavior are similar, various income groups are being impacted in very different ways. For high income shoppers, the impact of COVID means a more pronounced shift to online shopping, participating in stock-up behavior or purchases of products they don’t typically buy, and putting off non-essential purchases or eating out. Low income shoppers are far less likely to cite stock-up behaviors or atypical product purchasing, but they’re more likely to be shopping in stores they don’t usually shop, either because their preferred stores are closed or because their typical stores are too expensive. 


Product shortages, stock-up behaviors and online shopping all see increases

After a decline last week in claimed product shortages, consumers are once again citing shortages as a growing difficulty. We also saw an uptick in stock-up behaviors after two previous weeks of decline. Over half of consumers said they are delaying purchases of non-essential goods or services, and 40% said stores they would otherwise go to are closed. As social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines continue to be emphasized and enforced across the country, we are also seeing an increase in online shopping as a substitute for in-store shopping.

Online delivery and click-and-collect services continue to attract new users

15% of those who placed an online ship-to-home order in the past month indicated it was their first time ever or first time in the past six months doing so. 37% of click-and-collect users were new or ‘new lately.’ Retailers should continue to prioritize and invest in their online and click-and-collect offerings, given their evident appeal in this time of social distancing.

Concern over Coronavirus continues to rise

Nearly all individuals surveyed indicated a level of concern regarding Coronavirus, with 90% rating themselves as at least “somewhat concerned (5/10).” The balance from week-to-week continues to shift higher; those who rated themselves as “very concerned (10/10)” rose to 39% this week from 34% last week and  26% the week before. 

Specific concerns center around health and vary by income level

The top concerns this week were relatively consistent with last week’s. Impact on the economy, inability to see friends and family, and becoming infected— self/member of household first, followed by someone outside of the household— were the most widely cited concerns. Though these were the top concerns overall, when looking specifically at what individuals cited as their “primary” concern, becoming infected, economic impact, and impact on job security were the most prevalent. 

Similarly to impact on shopping behavior, concerns varied quite a bit by income level. Low income shoppers under-indexed on all of the below concerns except for their ability to purchase basic needs. They were the group least concerned with economic impact or school closures;, which exemplifies their focus on immediate, physical needs. High income shoppers were far more concerned with economic impact, ability to purchase non-essentials, and school closures than any other group.

Consumers unsure of travel plans in 2020 

Concern about cancelling upcoming travel plans dropped to 32% this week from 42% last week, as other concerns take root and travel falls to the back of consumers’ minds. We asked this week’s survey respondents about how COVID-19 had impacted their personal travel plans in 2020. The majority said they are no longer sure if they’ll travel in 2020, that they cancelled a trip, or that they’re no longer comfortable traveling to certain regions. 15% said they still planned to book travel later in the year, 10% have already rebooked a trip for later this year, and 6% have taken this opportunity to book new travel at low prices. 

Looking Ahead

While we anticipate the level of concern will continue to rise as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, we do not expect it to result in as many extreme swings in consumer behavior in the coming weeks. Instead, a temporary period of normalcy— consistent, essentials-only purchasing— is likely to settle in until stay-at-home orders are lifted. It is likely we will see occasional fluctuations in behavior and sentiment, particularly as various states amend or enhance their social distancing guidelines, and as the virus spreads to new areas of the country. 

Numerator will continue to closely monitor the situation to ensure brands and retailers have the most up-to-date information on consumer behavior. Each week during the outbreak we will publish a variety of resources to help you understand COVID-19’s impact on consumers. All of these resources can be found on our Coronavirus Research Center.

For more information on how your brand or category is affected by COVID-19, please contact your Numerator Customer Success and Consultants or get in touch with us.










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