Our pulses are normalized. All we can do now is focus on the future and be grateful for those on the front lines of the pandemic.
Over the past few weeks, we have been conducting a series of pulse checks about the current situation with U.S. consumers amidst COVID-19. We have found that originally, tensions were high, and consumers were extremely anxious about how to cope. Little by little, the pulse has been slowing down as everyone has been adjusting.
Late last week we collaborated with Mary Cooper from IRI Growth Consulting to deliver yet again our latest report.
Pulse check on April 16: Normalized.
Rasto Ivanic, GroupSolver: I don’t know what your first impression was, but there were some really interesting insights when I first looked at the data. The concern curve is flattening, however some concerning trends we talked about last time are continuing. I am curious after doing this for six weeks, what do you see in the latest pulse check?
Mary Cooper, IRI: The upward concern level trend is starting to level off and actually maybe even dipping down a little bit. I think the level of concern has really peaked. For some, there’s some optimism coming along the way with this.
RI: It must be particularly good news for restaurants. I think that this trend where people are continuing to venture out and get takeout or delivery must be encouraging to anyone that has been trying to hold it together for the last few weeks.
MC: I noticed that, and I thought that was a positive indicator that more people are taking out food from restaurants and more people are backing off from just buying groceries. We are seeing more confidence and local support for businesses.
RI: Last time we also talked about online grocery deliveries and the fact that it really hasn’t been picking up. This time we asked related questions about ordering online and picking up from your local grocery store. We had a hypothesis that this would be something people are taking advantage of, and it looks like about a quarter of our respondents are doing it. Is this a high or low number to you?
MC: It seems like a strong number, but I anticipate it to go even higher over time. If we looked at it regionally, I’d expect a lot more people will order from the denser places and where they can’t necessarily get out because COVID is more active.
RI: One of our hypotheses about online delivery of goods and groceries (not pickup from store) was that there was a bit of stock issues and lack of predictability in how quickly you can get groceries delivered to your home. Is this something that you think will turn around as the industry is getting used to it? The way I look at it, this is the golden opportunity for any business or entrepreneur wanting to start an online delivery business. If you miss that window, then maybe it’s a lost opportunity that will never come back. What do you think about that?
MC: There’s a certain amount of people who are doing some online shopping and getting comfortable with the experience. Some are going to set it up and do more moving forward. There are others who have had frustrating experiences, like they can’t get a certain item for several days, even though they want it now. It really depends on the retailer and how organized and capable they are of working through the online system.
RI: Switching gears and looking forward, we continue to see a rising trend of people expecting permanent changes in behavior as a result of COVID-19. Even more so than 4 weeks ago! Maybe the new reality we live in is going to carry over to the summertime.
MC: I totally agree with you. At first when people got into this, there was a certain number of naysayers, who couldn’t believe the seriousness of this virus. And now as this has been around for several weeks, more people are engaged and listening, reading, learning about it…they are realizing that one day they aren’t going to wake up and this is going to stop. There’s going to be some aftershock.
RI: When we think about the acceptance of the situation, what I find puzzling is that when we ask people about how long they expect this to last, we keep getting the same answer: 12 weeks! Are we in the new permanent reality already?
MC: I think we may be already into the new reality to some degree. If we were going to break this down, what becomes the new norm? I think people are knowing that how they go to work and how they protect themselves are issues. We are also seeing that there’s public rules and activities that are impacting us a couple months out. We don’t even know on a state by state basis when you will be able to have a full blown-out wedding or sports event! So, is the new normal that you can go to work or is the new normal when you can go to a rock concert, baseball game or wedding?
RI: We also asked people in the survey about what they are doing that’s helping them deal with all of this. ‘Thinking about life’ is one of the things that they are talking about.
MC: I think there’s a certain amount of that going on. There’s a lot of people going back to family values: cooking, making sure they are reaching out to others. So, there are some good social impacts going on right now.
RI: So where do we go from here?
MC: We are having a major disruption and with that, certain businesses are not going to continue. But new services are going to continue or be developed. I think there’s opportunity for many new online services and new products.
RI: Humans have this amazing availability to look at these situations with creative eyes. Maybe the question here is can we innovate for this new way of life? Is this different enough from what it was six weeks ago? Maybe we should throw away all the product development and restart the process to build new products and services.
MC: With people being home, it’s giving entrepreneurs time to think about things. I think there’s opportunity for innovation.
RI: I agree — it will be interesting to watch what good will eventually come out of this bad situation.
RI: To close our conversation, let’s end on a positive note. In this pulse check, we gave our respondents an opportunity to send those on the front lines a message. We received overwhelmingly positive sentiments, and here is an example of what people would like to say to the grocery workers. The other thank you posts to doctors, nurses, and delivery drivers can be found on our LinkedIn page.
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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