“Show me the numbers.”
Worry over the virus is decreasing, but folks continue to acknowledge that we are in this for the long-run. Consumers don’t seem to care how we reach a significant drop in cases and deaths — just as long as we get there.
It’s hard to remember life pre-COVID given that we have been stuck in this situation for months now. The grand impact of the virus continues to linger, but consumers are so used to it that it is no longer as big of a concern as it once was. Some consumers are even feeling more secure about employment than they have been over the past few weeks. What was once bringing us immense fear now begins to feel standard.
Some of the fascinating points that came out of this pulse-check include that (1) people do not think the virus will be gone any time soon (median length of expectancy is now up to 20 weeks!), and (2) unless there is a vaccine or a cure or at least a significant drop in cases, Americans will not believe that we are back to any sort of ‘normal’. Regardless, it is evident that we want to get to this new ‘normal’ one way or another…
Being able to discuss the data with one of our thought-partners has aided us in painting a picture about our current climate, as well as what to expect in the future. We are grateful for IRI Growth Consulting’s Mary Cooper for her time in contributing to our tenth report.
Pulse check on May 22: Awaiting.
Rasto Ivanic, GroupSolver: This is the week we have been waiting for! We are starting to see the turn for ‘better’, if you want to call it that. Concern about the virus has dropped. It’s the lowest since the second pulse check. Concern about unemployment has also dropped to the lowest level. But, what I find really interesting is that our expectation about how long this will last continues to extend! The median is now at 20 weeks and the average continues to go up as well. This is fascinating to see.
Mary Cooper, IRI: I think people’s awareness is heightened. They are realizing that they can live within the COVID crisis and still have some good quality of life experiences. That said, this graph speaks to people realizing that this pandemic will not be done next week. We need to continue to figure out how to live in this new normal. Consumers are settling into some of the expectations but realizing that we need to be creative moving forward because this pandemic is going to continue.
RI: For sure. Going back to your point about people settling in, if you look at the charts about eating out and ordering delivery, they suggest that we are slowly going back to normal.
MC: The data points to two things here. The online grocery purchasing for sure is continuing. The shift away from eating at home is an interesting dynamic. What’s happened is people bought a lot of groceries, cooked a lot at home, but then craved variety, got tired of cooking and wanted to support local businesses. Now that the country is opening up, there are places where only a percentage of restaurants can be filled and people are actually able to be on-site. What is also happening is that we are starting to see the spike of cases again that correlate with restaurants and bars opening. It’s going to be an interesting trend to watch.
RI: Definitely! Shoppers are telling us that safety is still on their minds when they go shopping. They think about product packaging. They think about that interface between the outside of the home and inside the home and what happens when they bring products such as groceries across that line.
MC: It is interesting to learn how shoppers are taking shopper hygiene more seriously than in the past. They are instituting new behaviors in store and at home. I wonder if these will be permanent and if more people will adopt these new ways.
RI: You know, the one question I was not sure of what answers we were going to get was about the ‘sign’ that would mean that we are turning the corner and that this crisis is over. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of the answers were about watching the numbers: drops in cases, deaths, etc., as well as having a treatment for the virus.
MC: I’m surprised that we are not seeing mentions of antibodies that will help fight against the virus in the future. That would have been an answer I would have expected to see along with these ones. But I agree that a vaccine pops out here.
RI: That is interesting. I guess the antibodies is the underlying driver for cases dropping. It’s like we don’t care how we get to it, as long as we see that we have bent the curve. I also would have expected seeing answers about businesses re-opening and kids going back to school. That didn’t register!
What is the one sign you are looking for that will give you confidence that the worst of COVID-19 is now over?
RI: Now going back to the seemingly contradicting trends, we seem to feel better about the crisis, but we also feel that this will take a while. In the last survey, we asked about how people felt their income might change in the future. It skewed towards income decreasing. Two weeks later, we asked the same question and it looks like people continue to feel like their income will decrease in the next 3–6 months. This is one trend I am keen on watching.
MC: There are certain verticals that people work in that are more concerning than others. For instance, travel and hospitality are on one end of the spectrum. On the other end, there are many people who have learned to work from home and function with business as usual. There’s opportunity for disruption.
RI: I completely agree. The interesting thing about new businesses and opportunities being built from the ashes of the crisis is that it tends to leave some people behind.
RI: Maybe one more insight worth talking about is about product packaging. Consumers out there are conscious about the packaging that companies use for their products. We heard from consumers that they remove and discard packaging when they bring products home. Others wash or wipe down products. There is an opportunity for manufacturers to take active steps to make consumers more comfortable. Perhaps something like a COVID-free certification or “contact-less manufacturing” label can offer comfort.
Mary Cooper is a Senior Principal at IRI Growth Consulting with a focus on CPG and Retail. Rasto Ivanic is a founder and CEO of GroupSolver.
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