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Survey: US consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis

As COVID-19 progresses and more regions begin to reopen, most US consumers still believe it will take more than six months for the economy to recover.

The next normal is beginning to emerge with clear effects on consumer behavior in five key areas, many of which may stick in the long term.

Consumers are shifting their spending to essentials and seeking value across purchases

Most Americans believe that the impact of the crisis on their routines and personal finances will last beyond the next four months. This sentiment has made consumers evaluate what they are spending and where, more carefully. Spending on essentials is the only category with positive intent even as many categories are beginning to rebound since April.

The flight to digital and omnichannel continues, and many intend to stay post-crisis

More consumers intend to continue to shop online even as the crisis subsides, with a portion of consumers shifting almost entirely to the online channel. Most categories have seen a 15 to 30 percent increase in online channel user growth. Consumers have also adopted many digital and contactless services including curbside pickup, delivery, and drive-through service.

As consumers struggle with limited access, there is a shock to brand loyalty

More than 75 percent of consumers have experimented with a different shopping behavior during the crisis, including trying new brands and places to shop. Of the consumers who switched stores or brands, availability, convenience, and value were the main drivers. Digital channels including online advertising and social media, as well as proactive researching were the key places people went to find out about these new places to shop.

Looking toward reopening, there is a renewed focus on health and expectation that companies “care” about consumers

Consumers are actively looking for safety measures when deciding where to shop in-store, such as enhanced cleaning, masks, and barriers. One-fourth of consumers believe that a company’s treatment of its employees has increased in importance as a buying criterion since the crisis started. Companies’ actions in this time, especially toward their consumers and employees, will be remembered for a long time and can lead to goodwill.

Given the length of the crisis, consumers have adapted to the homebody economy with new habits

Even as many US regions reopen, 73 percent consumers are not comfortable going back to “regular” out-of-home activities. Most consumers are waiting for milestones beyond governments lifting restrictions—they are waiting for medical authorities to voice their approval, safety measures to be put in place, and a vaccine and/or treatments to be developed.

While these changes in consumer behavior hold overall, there are some trends that are accentuated by generation, financial situation, and geography

This current reality and the prospect of a “next normal” have strong implications for B2C players, many of whom are already changing their operating model, their media spend and/or mix to better position themselves in the short term.

These exhibits are based on survey data collected in the United States from June 15–21, 2020. Check back for regular updates on US consumer sentiments, behaviors, income, spending, and expectations.

About the author(s)

Nidhi Arora, Abhay Jain, and Sebastian Pflumm are consultants in McKinsey’s San Francisco office, where Kelsey Robinson is a partner; Shruti Bhargava is a senior expert in the Philadelphia office; Tamara Charm is a senior expert in the Boston office; Resil Das is a specialist in the Gurugram office, where Manya Jain is an analyst; Anne Grimmelt is a senior expert in the Stamford office; Christina Sexauer is a specialist in the Waltham office; Scott Whitehead is a consultant in the Southern California office.

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