Jul 30, 2020

7-30 Update: The Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Consumer Behavior

Coronavirus shopping
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.




Across the country, states and cities are seeing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, leading some to scale back reopening plans or enforce new restrictions. As a result, we’ve seen an increase in COVID-19’s impact on shopping behavior and the level of concern consumers have regarding the virus. With cases on the rise in 41 states, we’re beginning to see shopping behaviors and sentiments reflective of late March and April.  

COVID-19 impact on consumer behavior up from last month 

This week, 88% of consumers said their shopping behavior had been impacted by Coronavirus, up from 83% at the end of June. This rise in impact accompanies a rise in cases, which was expected as more communities opened up businesses and lessened COVID restrictions. Until the country is able to limit the spread of the virus, we will continue to see elevated levels of consumer impact and cyclical patterns of behavior. 

Shopping habits impacted across the board

Apart from store closures, which declined for the third month in a row, every COVID-era impact to shopping behaviors saw a re-emergence this month. Consumers experiencing product shortages and those avoiding dining out both rose nearly 10% from late June. Online shopping rose significantly as well, with one-in-two shoppers opting for online in lieu of in-store. 

The number of consumers participating in stock-up behaviors increased slightly after a steady decline in previous months. These latest numbers are the highest they’ve been since April, and mirror levels first seen in mid-March. Brands and retailers should keep a pulse on consumers and prepare for a moderate increase should states reenact stay-at-home measures to curb cases. 

Consumers cut back on non-essential activities as cases surge

Across the board, intentions to resume non-essential activities like eating out, visiting public spaces, and traveling are down. Ordering pick-up or delivery from a restaurant and traveling domestically by car were the only activities with more than a 50% likelihood of participation among consumers. Nearly half of consumers said they were extremely unlikely to go to the gym, and more than half said the same of traveling by plane, visiting a bar, or going to the movies. Given the risks associated with public interactions and indoor environments, many remain wary of returning to these sorts of activities. Brands and businesses should brace for extended periods of decreased activity and keep working towards low-contact or creative alternatives to engage consumers. 

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

Three-fourths of consumers surveyed said they had placed an online delivery (ship-to-home) order recently, and over half said they had placed an online order for pick-up (click-and-collect). 

10% of those who placed an online ship-to-home order indicated it was their first time ever or first time in the past six months doing so; 25% of click-and-collect users said the same. While these numbers will fluctuate week-to-week, the overall trend is clear: there is a large, sustained shift to online that doesn’t appear to be stopping soon. Retailers must continue to prioritize and invest in these delivery and click-and-collect options.

In-Store shoppers are supportive of most retailer precautionary measures

Consumers were supportive of most precautionary measures being taken by retailers to slow the spread of COVID-19 inside their stores. The most widely supported measure was enhanced cleaning procedures, which was championed by nine-in-ten consumers. Other top-supported precautions were special hours for at-risk individuals and expanded curbside pick-up options like click-and-collect. Mask requirements were supported by eight in ten consumers, and nearly two-fifths of consumers deemed it the most important precaution retailers could enact; they were also the most widely disagreed upon measure, with one-in-ten disagreeing with any such requirements.

As a whole, every precaution garnered support from at least three-fourths of consumers, and retailers were more likely to attract consumers than to lose them as a result of enforcing precautionary measures. Nearly half (46%) of consumers said they preferred shopping at retailers with strict precautions in place, and about a fourth (24%) said they would go out of their way to shop at retailers with these precautions. Comparatively, 6% said they preferred retailers without strict precautions, and only 4% said they’d go out of their way to shop at retailers without these precautions. 

Concern over Coronavirus rises to highest level since April

Of those surveyed, 85% said their regions had entered at least Phase 1 of a reopening plan, which allows some non-essential businesses to reopen their doors. More than half (51%) of these individuals said their concerns over the virus had increased in response to reopening-- this is up significantly from 39% last month. Attitudes surrounding reopening are split, but the majority (45%) think their region is re-opening too quickly (up from 34%) and 36% think it’s opening at the right pace (down from 43%)

Overall level of concern was up significantly in the face of reopening fears, with the number of consumers rating themselves as “very concerned (10/10)” rising nearly 10% from last month. After months of sustained decline, concern over Coronavirus is back up to levels seen in late March and April, underscoring consumer reluctance to return to normal activities. 

Economic impact and fear of infection top-of-mind 

The economic impact of COVID-19 and the fear of getting sick remain at the top of the list when it comes to consumer concerns, though fear of infection is the primary concern for twice as many individuals. While the reopening of non-essential businesses initially signified good news for the economy and workers across the country, the notable increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks is cause for alarm for many consumers, both in terms of infection risk and the risk of returning to lockdown. Even as the country begins reopening, it’s going to take time to rebuild confidence and feelings of safety and security in this time of COVID-19, and balancing economic wellbeing with physical health and wellness will remain difficult.

Looking Ahead

Given the fast-changing nature of the outbreak, we anticipate continued fluctuations in behavior, impact and levels of concern in the coming weeks and months. As we’ve seen in the latest months, the lifting of stay-at-home orders will not be a quick-fix for businesses or consumers, and brings along a significant risk of rising case numbers and the need for reimposed restrictions. Now more than ever, it will be important to monitor consumer behavior and sentiment in order to navigate reopening communities and adjusting to this new normal.

Numerator will continue to closely monitor the situation to ensure brands and retailers have the most up-to-date information on consumer behavior. We are continuing to 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.