Consumers Have Grown More Cautious Since April

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Consumer behaviors were forced to change when governors and mayors shut down municipalities due to COVID-19, but the latest data from GfK indicates 69% of consumers “will be a lot more cautious” in what they do and how they do it.

That figure is up from 54% of surveyed respondents in April, said Karen Ramspacher, senior vice president of consumer insights and innovation for MRI-Simmons. She was among a team of researchers who shared data during a June 4 webinar hosted by GfK: “Preparing for the next normal.”

The other 31% fo people say they'll go back to living the way they did pre-pandemic.

The numbers are a sign that retailers need to be prepared that even though a good number of consumers are ready for their local and even the national economy to reopen, many are weary and have adapted to new shopping patterns.

Thirty-nine percent of people are nervous, while 61% classify themselves as accepting. They believe in fate and are willing to accept whatever is meant to be will be. Of those, 41% say forcing people to social distance and stay home is an overreaction.

There were some detectable splits in the political bends of the nervous and accepting, but Ramspacher noted about one-third were middle of the road. (Generally, the nervous segment leaned liberal while the accepting demographic skewed conservative.) Those who said they were nervous were a bit older, while about a third of the accepting segment was under age 30.

Stacy Bereck, managing director of consumer insights and sales effectiveness for GfK in North America, said the pandemic forced consumers to adapt their shopping patterns and habits. And when looking internationally, there is evidence that elsewhere as economies have reopened consumers haven’t snapped back to their previous habits.

In Germany, she said, online sales have held strong. She said retailers should pay attention to demographics that previously weren’t known as online shoppers.

Those over age 50 previously were reluctant online buyers, but Bereck said they’ve used online platforms to buy groceries during the COVID-19 lockdown. And consumer surveys have shown they’re now open to making other kinds of purchases online that they wouldn’t have considered pre-pandemic As an example she cited major appliances.

As a result, manufacturers and retailers need to think about their marketing messages, because there’s not one-size-fits-all message that works now. Bereck said some are ready to move on, while others feel like they’re facing a whole new world. Women are more likely to feel like they’re operating in a different world, while men are split. Parents of young children want to try to return to whatever normal might be.

Here’s a bright side for tire dealers and automotive service providers: GfK’s research indicates consumers are ready to go on vacation this summer. Over half said they preferred a roadtrip to another mode of travel.

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