Ongoing health concerns about COVID-19 have consumers confused about what “normal” will look like in the future and how soon it arrives, according to the latest research from sales and marketing agency Acosta.
The firm surveyed Americans in early May, its fifth installment in COVID-19 related research, and found slightly more than half of shoppers expect life to return to normal in less than six months but that new behaviors have also become normal.
“Three months into the pandemic, consumers are not surprisingly seeking the light at the end of the tunnel, but not all are optimistic about, or supportive of, a quick return to normalcy due to continuing health concerns," said Darian Pickett, CEO of Acosta. "With shoppers settling into their new routines, 'normal' life will not look like pre-COVID-19 life, at least not entirely.”
For example, Acosta’s research shows that bringing reusable bags to stores may become a thing of the past and using hand sanitizer and masks while shopping is likely to remain common practice even after the pandemic subsides. Other highlights of the research include:
Just over half of shoppers (51%) expect life to return to normal in less than six months, while more than a quarter (29%) believe it will take more than a year.
Millennials (65%) and Southerners (54%) are the most optimistic about life returning to normal in less than six months.
Shoppers have differing opinions on state reopening plans. Forty-three percent believe their state is reopening on a reasonable schedule; 39% believe their state is reopening too soon; and 13% don't think their state is reopening fast enough.
Sixty-eight percent of shoppers reported using hand sanitizer before or after shopping.
Sixty-six percent of shoppers reported wearing a mask while shopping. Mask usage has doubled since early April and is most popular among shoppers in the Northeast.
Nearly half of shoppers (49%) reported shopping during off-peak hours to avoid crowds.
A third of shoppers (34%) opted to use self-checkout.
Shoppers are stocking up on meat products because they are cooking more meals at home (34%), concerned about shortages (31%), minimizing their number of store trips (31%) and concerned about higher prices on future trips (21%).
Chicken was the most popular choice with 47% of shoppers stocking up on it, and beef (45%) and fish (39%) round out the top three.
Fifty-three percent of shoppers noticed purchase limits when buying meat; 46% noticed out-of-stocks; and 35% noticed higher prices.
Acosta's research was gathered via online surveys with responses coming from the firm’s proprietary shopper community. The latest round of research is blended with data from surveys conducted during the course of the pandemic April 17-23, April 3-7, March 20-29 and March 6-12 in a full report accessible here.