Mar 26, 2020

3/26 Update: The Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Consumer Behavior

Woman shopping with gloves
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.




This past week, we once again saw an increase in concern among consumers regarding Coronavirus, as well as an increase in the number of consumers indicating Coronavirus had impacted their shopping behavior. Stock-up behaviors were down, while product shortages and online purchases were up. 

Have consumers changed their purchase behavior in response to Coronavirus?

Nearly 9 in 10 consumers have changed their behavior. 88% of consumers now say their shopping behavior has been impacted by Coronavirus, up from 59% last week and 33% the week prior. Further, more than three quarters of those who claim no impact so far anticipate some sort of impact in the near future. Impact is widespread across generations, but Gen Z and Seniors have been most heavily impacted, followed by Millennials, Boomers, and Gen X.  

The most frequently cited impact continues to be product shortages, experienced by 79% of consumers this past week. There was a significant decrease in stock-up behaviors this week; only 38% of shoppers claimed to have stocked-up on products this week versus 53% the week before. With many stores implementing quantity limits on highly-demanded categories, and many consumers already having stockpiled what they “needed,” it appears these bulk purchasing behaviors may be on their way out. Maintaining these quantity limits and emphasizing the importance of only taking what you need will help stores to maintain supply levels. 

Are consumers avoiding brick and mortar and shifting their purchases online?

This week, 32% of consumers indicated they were replacing in-store trips with online purchases, up 4% from the week prior. Similarly to last week, though, the Numerator Shopping Behavior Index shows that sales and households shopping are up across channels—  both in-store and online. So at this time, the “replacement” of in-store trips with online ones has not yet resulted in decreased in-store sales.

This week, we also asked consumers about online and click-and-collect purchase behaviors. Over half (52%) of those who have made an online purchase since the beginning of March said online shopping was part of their normal routine; another large portion (44%) shop online “here and there.” Only 4% indicated it was their first time ever or first time in the past six months shopping online. Click-and-collect buyers were significantly more dispersed. Over one-third of those who made a click-and-collect purchase in March were doing it for the first time or the first time in six months. Retailers should continue to prioritize and invest in these click-and-collect offerings, given their evident appeal to both new and repeat users in this time of social distancing.

What is the general sentiment of consumers regarding Coronavirus?

Nearly all individuals surveyed indicated a level of concern regarding Coronavirus. The balance from week-to-week is also shifting to a higher level of concern; those who rated themselves as “very concerned (10/10)” jumped to 25% this week from 15% last week. 

While overall concern grows, specific concerns continue to shift. The most prevalent concerns at the moment are stores selling out of necessary products, the inability to go about normal routines, the wellbeing of local businesses, and worries about job security. The fear of actually contracting the virus— which had previously been cited as the top concern among those surveyed— has since fallen to the bottom of the list.  

Looking Ahead

Every day, more cities and states announce measures to flatten the curve and control the spread of the virus. These new protocols include shelter-in-place orders, restaurant and non-essential store closures, and retailers adjusting their hours to allow for restocking, deep cleaning, and accommodating more at-risk members of the community. In light of these updates and developments, we expect to see ongoing changes in consumer behavior both online and in stores.

Numerator will be closely monitoring 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 Shopping Behavior Index providing a weekly year over year index of FMCG sales for 14+ retail channels, an Early Read Index with data on the most recent two weeks of shopper behavior, and an updated version of this verified buyer survey. 

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.









Previous iterations of these survey insights:

3/13 The Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Consumer Behavior

3/19 Update: the Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Consumer Behavior