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How are consumers reacting to COVID-19?

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Posted By Pinar Dost ⋅ May 15, 2020

The world is very different to how it was just a couple of months ago. Many countries are in varying stages of national lockdown, a vital step towards halting the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). In the UK, where Ikano Insight is based, we are continuing to support our customers in any way we can while working safely from home.

Of course, as long as we stick to government guidelines on social distancing, there’s no right or wrong way to get through lockdown. But as this unique situation continues, it seems that many around the world are developing new consumer habits and curbing others to navigate it. 

So, what does this mean for your business? Well, findings like these can help you understand how your own customers are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequently, how you can offer what they need.

Here are some of the key consumer insights from around the world since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Smartphone usage is up

This is unlikely to surprise anyone. As part of its multinational Coronavirus Research report, the Global Web Index (GWI) found that worldwide, 70 per cent of people asked are spending more time on their smartphones since the pandemic began.

The countries with the highest rates of increased usage included the Philippines and China at 86 per cent each and Brazil at 77 per cent. Respondents in the UK and Australia reported only a 38 per cent rate of increase, while Germany reported the lowest increase rate of 33 per cent.

Looking deeper, GWI noted that over three quarters of those living in urban areas said they are spending more time on their smartphones, compared to just under half of those who live in rural areas.

Almost half of us are shopping online more

With more time spent on our smartphones, of course many of us are finding ways to spend money online too. Almost half of the respondents across the 17 markets GWI included in their research said  they were doing more online shopping since the beginning of the outbreak.

So, what are consumers buying more of online? As you might expect, food and groceries topped the list, with 33 per cent of people saying they had done more food shopping online, followed by 29 per cent spending more on household items, such as cleaning products.

But it’s not all essentials. Nearly a fifth of respondents (19 per cent) said they’d shopped online more for clothes, 17 per cent for entertainment, including books and films, 15 per cent cosmetics and beauty products, and 10 per cent for personal treats. Lockdown isn’t easy, and many consumers fortunate enough to still have disposable income are looking for ways to make it more bearable.

Of the countries with increased rates of online shopping, China was at the top, and also approaching an easing of lockdown measures at the time of the survey. Other nations where respondents reported spending more time shopping for personal treats included Singapore (14 per cent), USA (12 per cent) and the UK (10 per cent).

Many of us are delaying large purchases

Although many people are spending disposable income, a large number aren’t planning any high value purchases – flights, holidays, vehicles, luxury items etc – any time soon.

Survey-wide, almost 40 per cent of people asked said they wouldn’t make any large purchases until COVID-19 is under control or has been eradicated from their country. A fifth said they would wait until the pandemic is under control or over globally.

The travel industry was always going to be one of those hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. GWI found that the highest numbers of respondents planning to delay buying flights or holidays were in Singapore (57 per cent), China (53 per cent) and Ireland (51 per cent).

Most of us are doing more exercise – and planning to keep it up

As one of the only activities many of us can leave the house for, it’s not surprising that 85 per cent of global respondents say that they have been doing some form of exercise since the pandemic began. Having said that, most are opting for at home workouts (51 per cent), over going for walks (33 per cent).

Country by country, there are peaks for certain types of exercise. In Germany, 27 per cent are cycling more, respondents in China (36 per cent) and India (33 per cent) are using home exercise equipment such as treadmills and cycling machines, and in Singapore, 23 per cent are going running or jogging.

What’s more, 40 per cent of people across all markets said they planned to spend more time exercising regularly once the pandemic is over. Exercise was the top chosen activity of a list of more than 20 things respondents planned to spend more time doing post-COVID-19, followed by socialising as a family or household (26 per cent) and watching more news coverage (24 per cent).

It’ll be interesting to see how these plans develop over time, but it’s encouraging to hear that many consumers seem open to adopting healthier lifestyles moving forward.

Understand the changing world we live in

These findings are just a snapshot of what GWI has published so far in response to COVID-19, it’s well worth taking a look at the full reports for more information.

However, the real key to discovering insights that can help your business through the pandemic and out the other side is how your customers are reacting. We’re working remotely to help our clients do just that.

For example, our team has been busy working with IKEA to help them learn how best to adapt their messaging for their customers. This has involved A/B split testing to determine when and how IKEA should reach out, as well as how the brand can boost the wellbeing of its consumer base. Through careful social listening, advanced analytics and data intelligence, we have been able to support IKEA in its communication strategy, for now and in the months to come.

 If we can help you in the same way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.  

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