As the weeks go by, trends will change based on the way the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. What is apparent is that while consumers are over-compensating in some purchasing respects, they are being cautious and conservative in others.

Information is critical to consumers, now more than ever, and they are relying on their traditional, trusted news sources to keep them in the know. We are receiving a crash course in technology, exploring new ways to stay connected and to conduct business online. Processes and habits are emerging that will no doubt continue long after this pandemic is over.

At The Ehrhardt Group, we are specifically interested in understanding how consumers are changing or reinforcing their behaviors during this time of crisis. Equally as important, figuring out which consumer and media behaviors may become permanent will impact how we communicate with each other in the future.

Strengthening of news bubbles

Who do Americans trust most to provide them with information and guidance on the pandemic?

Research by technology and media company, Morning Consult, reveals that consumers are turning to their trusted news sources for information. They reference “news bubbles” as the sources that are our go-to’s for information. People trust who they trust. Our own individual news bubbles are those news stations, publications and online media sources that we turn to on a regular basis to get our news. During the current health crisis, the walls of these news bubbles are thickened as we rely more heavily on our individual trusted news sources for information on the pandemic.

This aligns with the current findings from Global Web Index research, which finds that 95% of consumers say they’re spending more time on in-home media consumption/activities with the biggest spike in those watching more news coverage via television, news websites and social media platforms.

The ripple effect

News outlets are seeing an uptick in activity due to the constraints of stay-at-home orders and the public’s general appetite for that latest information.

Consumer confidence

Research by Morning Consult finds that while consumer confidence was at an all-time high prior to the pandemic, it saw a gradual decline from Feb. 21- March 9 and fell dramatically on March 10, when major sporting events were cancelled, and celebrities began to share positive COVID-19 test results. This shows that the effect the health crisis is having on consumers is not just from an economic standpoint, but also from the spread of information.

Key takeaways from the Morning Consult survey results are that:

  • Confidence has fallen most among high-income earners, while lower-income segments of the public have yet to fully realize the ramifications of the pandemic.
  • High-income earners increasingly think it is a bad time to make major household purchases but will likely still make those purchases in the future, thus resulting in a delayed demand for goods.
  • There is growth in restaurant and grocery delivery services such as Uber Eats and Postmates as both are seeing record numbers.
  • Purchases of specific consumer goods such as food staples, personal hygiene products and cleaning supplies are on the rise, while luxury and large appliance or household items are being delayed.

Technology keeping us all connected

COVID-19 is forcing all of us to look at alternatives to in-person interactions and accelerating a new comfort level with digital technology. We are all used to doing things a certain way. This health crisis has shaken up our routines and, as a result, new habits are emerging that will likely become mainstays after the pandemic is over.

Consumer Purchasing Trends

According to Global Web Index research, purchasing trends are shifting.

  • Almost 40% of people surveyed say they will make major purchases only when the outbreak begins to decrease or is over in their country. Almost 20% say they will wait until the outbreak decreases or is over globally.
  • High-income earners are open to making purchases once the national situation begins to improve.
  • Travel plans are changing with 26% of flights and 41% of vacations likely to have been delayed.
  • Almost 15% report delaying the purchases of luxury items, technology devices and home appliances.

Views on brand actions

Globally, people are most in favor of brands responding to the outbreak in the following ways:

  • Providing flexible payment terms – 83%
  • Offering free services – 81%
  • Closing non-essential stores – 79%
  • Helping to produce essential supplies – 67%

We will continue to share developing research relevant to businesses and organizations as they become available.  If you see something that interests you, feel free to share it.