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New Consumer Behaviors Could Impact Economy Re-Opening

By Fenton Overdyke, VP and director of research, Chernoff Newman

As South Carolina continues to re-open, businesses and consumers are trying to get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible. An April 2020 poll by integrated marketing communications agency Chernoff Newman indicates consumers miss their old routines and are ready to return to normal. However, it remains to be seen how numerous practices and behaviors consumers adopted during quarantine weeks will translate into the new routines of a post-COVID19 world.

The April survey was a snapshot in time that illustrated how South Carolinians have been willing to make the behavioral changes necessary to fight this virus. While consumers are optimistic about the future and embracing parts of the ‘new normal,’ they realize they may have to make long-term changes to their routines and habits.

The pandemic has forced many consumers to modify or change behaviors. For example, among consumers who indicated each of the following was relevant to their lives:

  • 96% say they have practiced some form of social distancing (with most giving themselves high marks on practicing this behavior).
  • 91% say they are washing or sanitizing their hands more often.

More than anything, according to survey results, consumers miss socializing and being with others, whether that means going to restaurants, participating in events that involve other people, or going to work.

Among those who took part in the following activities before the pandemic:

  • 92% say they miss going out to eat, with 55% saying they miss it very much.
  • 91% say they miss getting together with friends, attending book clubs and going to bible studies, with 52% saying they miss it very much.
  • 76% of those who worked in an office say they miss going into the office (although 24% say they don’t miss it).
  • 67% say they miss going to a movie theater, with 28% saying they miss it very much.

And while they miss many of their pre-virus personal and social interactions, consumers also said they may continue to practice social distancing, cook more at home and take out rather than dine-in once the pandemic subsides. They miss going out to movies, but they also say they might be more likely to stream movies at home rather than go to the theater after the pandemic ends. 

For example, among those who said each of the following was relevant to their lives:

  • 86% expect to continue washing or sanitizing their hands more often.
  • 70% expect to continue practicing some form of social distancing.
  • 67% expect to continue cooking at home more and dining out less.
  • 56% expect to continue streaming movies instead of going to the theater.
  • 40% plan to continue working from home more.
  • 40% plan to continue ordering food to go instead of dining in.
  • 32% expect to continue wearing a mask in public places.

Rarely in our nation’s history have American consumers been asked to make such drastic behavior changes in such a short period of time. How closely actual long-term consumer behavior mirrors their intentions will be interesting to track in our June poll. These new behavior patterns will certainly impact how businesses of all types approach their near-term re-opening and their long-term success.

Chernoff Newman’s second in its series of consumer tracking polls will be available in June.

Methodology: Chernoff Newman conducted a statewide online study of North Carolina and South Carolina consumers with a total sample size of 500 in each state and a corresponding sampling error of +/- 4.4 percentage points at the 95-percent confidence level.

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