The M Booth research team wanted to hear directly from consumers about their opinions on the impact of coronavirus, so we fielded a pulse survey among 750 consumers (ages 16 to 65) to gain real-time insight into their concerns and hopes. Here’s what we found, along with key advice for brands.

:30 TAKEAWAY

Consumers are resilient and while the COVID-19 headlines are sobering, they are able to think about the future and even find silver linings to the pandemic. Their hope is that everyone continues to be helpful to one another and uses the coronavirus backdrop as a launchpad to improve healthcare for all. 

They are using social distancing and newly available time while sheltering in place to learn new skills, lean into passions that they had previously retired, or refocus on the basics, like organizing our homes. They are coping with today’s new reality through hacks, creative inspiration, and often with a dose of humor. 

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

Our pulse survey asked panelists how they would describe the consumer mindset as they focus on life after the pandemic. ‘Optimistic’ and ‘resilient’ were among the top words flagged. And when asked, ‘Which of the following things could be a positive outcome or silver lining of the COVID-19 situation,’ our survey panelists said:

  • 63% More time to spend with family
  • 53% Saving money on expenses, such as gas
  • 48% Positive impact on the environment
  • 38% Focusing on health, fitness, and wellness
  • 35% Being able to get back to the basics
  • 34% Opportunity to help others

Some brands are even rewarding us for helping others, even the four-legged ones. Case in point: Busch is offering a free three-month supply of beer to the first 500 people who foster or adopt a dog from Minnesota’s Midwest Animal Rescue.

GREAT MINDS

While consumers may feel powerless now, American ingenuity and creativity is still alive and well among consumers who are using the new normal to acquire new skills or circle back to the tasks that our over-scheduled days made difficult to tackle. They are finding satisfaction in becoming reacquainted with our hobbies and passions. And, they are hacking creative solutions to ease daily burdens, elevate mundane tasks, and tap digital technology to inspire or simply entertain us.

How they are spending their time

With a nod to Marie Kondo, almost half of our survey takers (49%) are using time sheltering-in-place to organize their homes, the most cited activity, and they are returning to low tech / high-touch pastimes like playing games and doing puzzles (47%). In fact, puzzle and board game maker Ravensburger is seeing sales numbers during COVID-19 that are typical at the height of the holiday shopping season. 

Joy of Cooking Redux

They are finding satisfaction in the kitchen, experimenting with new recipes, serving up more sophisticated and interesting meals for themselves and their families. According to our pulse survey, one-third (35%) of consumers say they are using time at home to get more creative in the kitchen. And, former New York Times food editor Sam Sifton sees family meals together at the table one of the “precious few good things” happening as a result of COVID-19. 

Meal kit brands like Blue Apron are experiencing spikes in sales as they become an increasingly popular resource for home chefs.  And weekly, chefs from the James Beard Foundation, a non-profit group supporting culinary arts, along with The Infatuation foodie group, share tips on making restaurant food at home. 

Many consumers are balancing the calories from those creative meals with more time working out in home-based makeshift gyms, walking, enjoying outside time with their families, and even joining in on virtual fitness classes. More than 1 in 4 survey takers (28%) say focusing on virtual fitness or getting outdoors is one of the ways they are making the most of their time at home. Many fitness apps are making access easier, including Nike who is offering its workout app free.

In light of this, food brands should consider partnering with gyms and trainers influencers to supplement food content with quick, easy doable workouts for home.

RULES FOR ENGAGING DURING COVID AND DURING THE RECOVERY

Even though the statistics are sobering and headlines grim, American consumers are reflecting the spirit of resilience and optimism. They are making the best of a challenging situation, and making the most out of our time sheltering in place. They are reconstituting aspects of life that had been back burnered, finding ways to weave together a super-charged digital-first way of working with old-school togetherness. Newfound hobbies and back-to-basics sensibilities are helping provide them with purpose and the much-needed semblance of control.  

For brands to engage with consumers now and into the recovery phase of the pandemic, we suggest three simple rules:

  1. Be present. Now is not the time to remain silent. Your consumers want to see and hear the humanity of your brand. They want encouragement and help in ways that are real for them and authentic to you. 
  2. Be human. This pandemic is touching everyone, whether through the mild inconvenience of the toilet paper hunt to the significant issue of job loss, or the medical impact of COVID-19. Engage your employees as possible to identify ways to make an impact in the communities you serve. And by all means, put your employees first.
  3. Be optimistic. Your consumers are optimistic and they want the same from you. Give them something to feel good about, and help them make the most of their time sheltering in place. Look to provide avenues for their creativity and ingenuity. And recognize and celebrate their can-do spirit and innovation.

 


For more information about pulse surveys and how we can tap the consumer zeitgeist in real-time, contact Bonnie Ulman.

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