Apr 16, 2020

4/16 Update: The Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Consumer Behavior

Woman shopping with face bask during COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak
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.




For the first time since early March, the level of concern regarding Coronavirus decreased slightly this week. As health officials and government leaders begin hinting at a relief on the horizon— re-opening the country, and potentially surpassing the peak of infections— the fear and uncertainty felt by consumers seems to have eased slightly, as its claimed impact on shopping behavior holds steady. Though most consumers are still stuck at home living their new normal, behavior and sentiment appear to be stabilizing.

With all their time at home, individuals are consuming more than just physical goods; from social media to streaming services to live programming, consumers are ingesting more content than ever to keep themselves entertained, and it presents an interesting opportunity for brands and retailers looking to connect. In addition to our standard questions this week, we asked consumers how their media usage overall has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak and various ways in which they are using social media to stay connected, informed, and entertained.

Media consumption has increased across the board in light of COVID-19

Over half of consumers say they’ve increased their usage of social media and subscription streaming services since the pandemic started. Nearly half say the same of free streaming services, watching live programming, and playing games on a mobile device or tablet. Even non-digital media types like magazines and newspapers are seeing an increase in usage. While consumers may not be out and about physically, there are still numerous opportunities for brands and retailers to connect with them through various media types.

Social media is taking on new roles for consumers who are social distancing

96% of individuals are using some form of social media during this time of social distancing. The majority (39%) spend two to three hours per day on social media, and another 29% spend four or more hours. 64% say their use has increased since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

While 87% of individuals use these platforms to stay in touch with loved ones, social media has now become an outlet for a variety of activities, including both a distraction from and an outlet for COVID-19 news, somewhere to draw inspiration for at-home activities, and a means to livestream events or workouts. 

Not all platforms win for every activity, though. While Facebook and WhatsApp are kings of keeping in touch, TikTok is the clear winner for providing distraction, and Pinterest dominates at-home activity inspiration. Interestingly, the number of those using Facebook as a distraction from COVID-19 news is only slightly higher than those who use it to stay up to date with COVID-19 news. Now more than ever, within the realm of social media, brands and retailers must know where to reach their consumers and how to resonate with them.

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

This week, 89% of consumers said their shopping behavior had been impacted by Coronavirus, down slightly from last week’s 92%. As expected, we have not seen any major changes in this number over the past four weeks, and we anticipate it staying relatively consistent until stay-at-home orders are lifted, or until there are any other major developments in the outbreak’s progression. 

Product shortages and stock-up behaviors decrease slightly

After a slight uptick last week, we once again saw a decline in both product shortages and stock-up behavior. Over half of consumers are delaying purchases of non-essential goods or services, 61% are eating out less, 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. All of these behaviors are indicative of the new normal, and we expect them to continue in weeks to come.

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

14% 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; 31% of click-and-collect users said the same. These new or “new lately” groups are slightly smaller this week than we’ve seen in previous weeks, indicating a potential slow-down in these services’ attraction of new customers. However, retailers should continue to prioritize and invest in these offerings, given their evident appeal— and need— in this time of social distancing.

Concern over Coronavirus down for the first time this week

For the first time since we began surveying consumers in early March, the level of concern over Coronavirus has decreased this week. Those who rated themselves as “very concerned (10/10)” declined to 31% this week from 39% last week. 30% of consumers rated themselves as “somewhat concerned (5/10)” or less this week; last week, only 22% of consumers fell into this range.

Inability to see friends and family now top concern 

As many individuals enter into their fourth week of social distancing and stay-at-home measures, inability to see friends and family rose to the top of the concerns list. This was followed closely by economic impact and concern about becoming infected. Primary concerns continued to center around becoming infected, economic impact, impact on job security and inability to see friends and family. 

Looking Ahead

As we’ve seen this week, concern over the Coronavirus may be on the decline in light of recent, hopeful commentary surrounding reopening the country and having surpassed the peak of infections. However, given the fast-changing nature of the outbreak, we anticipate seeing fluctuations in behavior, impact and levels of concern in the coming weeks. For now, we look towards a continued period of temporary normalcy— consistent, essentials-only purchasing— until stay-at-home orders are lifted and ultimately, until the threat of the virus has diminished.

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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