Consumer Behavior Monitor: how corona has been disrupting our consumption behavior for a year now

Marketingtribune gave an exclusive report on the Consumer Behavior Monitor of bureau Validators and VU Amsterdam every week in 2020. This year we will continue with this with different accents here and there and a little less focus on corona and its consequences.

It is not yet clear what the impact of reduced confidence in the government is on vaccination coverage. It is clear that there is still little movement in the willingness to vaccinate. Although we are still struggling with the lockdown measures, we are also getting used to it. Also in consumption behavior. Brands became more relevant, but they did when people were more concerned. Demand fell in some sectors, while demand rose sharply in others. But there is hope for 2021: many consumers have a lot to spend, because people also had money left over.

Corona worries follow the waves of contamination

It seems hard to imagine a life without corona. A life where we would party, eat out, hug and shake hands, travel and get out whenever we wanted. Yet it has only just been a year. In 2020 we were able to enjoy the carefree life for two months until the corona virus brought fear, uncertainty and worries in March.

Most Dutch people immediately had concerns about a possible economic crisis. While a potential recession remained a major concern throughout the year, these worries did diminish as the corona crisis continued. In addition, a large majority of consumers had money left over and saved over the past year, so that a crisis still seems far away and abstract to many. For the economy and business, this could be good news in 2021 – if we were allowed to go out again -: many consumers have something to spend.

In addition to a possible economic crisis, we were most concerned about the health of others in 2020

When COVID-19 reached our country in March, 70% of the Dutch were concerned about the health of others, compared to less than 50% who were concerned about themselves. Social beings as we are, we pay more attention to others than to ourselves. These health concerns follow the waves of contamination. They decreased until the beginning of the summer, but then increased rapidly when the number of infections increased rapidly after the summer.

From the second corona wave, support for the government’s approach has declined sharply

Second wave disastrous for support to the government

From the second corona wave, support for the government’s approach has declined sharply. Until mid-2020, more than two-thirds of the Dutch thought the government’s approach was good and only 15% thought the measures were too limited. Since August and September, the group that finds the measures too limited has grown strongly to 29% in August and September and even to over 40% in October. The stricter measures introduced in October have managed to moderate the negative-minded consumers. In October 25% had no confidence in the government, now it is 20%. The number of people who consider the measures too limited has also fallen to a third.

How will the current vaccination approach affect this attitude and confidence? So far there has been little movement in consumers’ willingness to vaccinate. More than half are planning to get vaccinated, but 15% have been saying ‘no’ for several weeks and more than a quarter are still not sure.

Gijs de Beus, strategist at Friends & Foes and member of the expert panel (bottom center of photo): ‘The vaccination campaign has so far been mainly informative. This is understandable, because people have quite a few questions about it, as we see in the monitor. But now that the first people are being vaccinated, it is also important to emphasize that vaccination is the social norm. So it is good that the vaccinations of corona figures such as Diederik Gommers are widely reported in the press. Hopefully he will get Famke Louise that far too. ‘

Corona also gets used

Compared to the first half of 2020, a relatively large group still thinks the measures are too limited. The proportion of consumers who want to see the current measures relaxed is therefore decreasing sharply. This while a relatively large number of consumers still have a hard time with it. For example, almost six in ten Dutch people have a hard time with the limitations in social contact and half have a hard time with the limited sports and recreational opportunities.

Nevertheless, habituation also seems to occur here, since fewer and fewer people are having a hard time with less being allowed outside. The fact that our news consumption takes on patterns that we were used to before corona also substantiates that ‘we now know’. In March last year, almost 6 in 10 Dutch people made more use of news channels than before, now that number has halved.

Rob Revet, brand strategist at FNDMNTL and member of the expert panel (top right of photo): ‘Corona gets used, it seems. The question is whether we are also getting used to our new behavior. We now find it completely normal to order food online, but we cannot do much else now. The question then is whether this will continue after corona and whether online ordering remains an attractive revenue model for the hospitality industry. Many people can’t wait to go offline again. That was also evident after the first lockdown. ‘

Brands more relevant in times of crisis, opportunity for marketers

We won’t soon forget how many people were hoarding when corona hit early last year. People rushed to the store and cleared the shelves. Toilet paper, pasta and vegetable preserves in particular became scarce. A quarter of the Dutch also spent more on food at the time. On average about € 50 more per week. Today 15% of consumers still spend more on groceries than on corona. It is therefore not surprising that supermarkets achieved record sales last year.

Many brands found it difficult to estimate how to communicate with consumers during this period. Many brands responded to corona with a commercial.

But there was also the question of whether people were really waiting for this. There appeared to be enough support from consumers. However, advertising messages such as ‘we do it together’ and ‘we are there for you’ quickly became somewhat jaded. Scientific analysis of the data from this monitor, in collaboration with the VU University Amsterdam, also showed that this period offered opportunities for brands. When consumers are more concerned, brands become more important to them. Brands then have a risk-reducing function. Data from this monitor has shown that brands become more relevant in uncertain times.

Mandy Merks, Insights Consultant at Validators and member of the expert panel (top left in the photo): ‘Radiating trust and safety and communicating remains important for brands. We also see a lot of support among consumers in the monitor for advertising, despite the crisis. But to really stand out, remains a considerable challenge. Authenticity of the message and good creation will continue to play an important role in this. ‘

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