Sep 30, 2020

9/30 Update: The Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Consumer Behavior

Woman shopping with mask on
To help support our clients during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Numerator will provide ongoing analysis into consumer behavior and sentiment by conducting ongoing surveys of verified buyers.
Access the latest version of these insights here. We will continue to keep all prior iterations of these survey insights available on our blog. 



COVID-19 cases may be rising in 32 states, but consumer impact and concern have continued to decline since a spike in late-July. As consumers adjust to living alongside Coronavirus, they’ve become more adept at navigating their day-to-day activities with COVID precautions in mind. While we are still likely to see increases in behavioral impact before a return to normalcy, future spikes in cases may have a slightly lesser impact on consumer behavior now that individuals know what to expect and how to cope. 

COVID-19 impact on consumer behavior down from last month 

This week, 77% of consumers said their shopping behavior had been impacted by Coronavirus, down from 81% at the end of August and 88% at the end of July. This decline in impact accompanies a rise in cases, which may indicate that Americans are learning how to live with the virus while trying to stick to routines. We still expect to see fluctuations in impact as communities navigate life with COVID, particularly as fall sets in and we prepare for a potential widespread resurgence in cases. 

Shopping habits see less impact in latest weeks

Every COVID-era impact to shopping behavior saw a slight decline this month, after elevated levels of impact in July. Experiencing product shortages, avoiding eating out, and delaying purchases all saw the biggest drops this month versus last. Online shopping declined a fair amount, but remains elevated, with more than one-in-three shoppers opting for online in lieu of in-store. 

Consumers expect big changes in coming months

Changes in circumstances have a significant impact on changes in behavior, and many consumers are anticipating significant changes in the next two months. Three-in-four believe schools and universities will cancel in-person classes, leading to more children and young adults back at home and increasing households’ consumption levels. Two-in-three expect a widespread increase in COVID cases, and a similar number plan to stock up on essential items in case that happens and lock-down measures are reinstated, which over half of consumers expect to happen. Only 38% of consumers think a second round of stimulus checks is likely in the next two months, down from 49% last month. 

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

Two-thirds of consumers surveyed said they had placed an online delivery (ship-to-home) order recently, and two-fifths 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; 23% 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.

Concern over Coronavirus down slightly from August

The majority (88%) of the consumers said their regions had entered at least Phase 1 of a reopening plan, which allows non-essential businesses to reopen their doors. 41% of these individuals said their concerns over the virus had increased in response to reopening. Attitudes surrounding reopening are split, but 33% think their region is re-opening too quickly and 43% think it’s opening at the right pace. Overall level of concern was down slightly from last month, with the number of consumers rating themselves as “very concerned (10/10)” dropping from 24% to 22%. 

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. 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.