The disruption COVID-19 presented us with an opportunity to study the impact of consumer emotions on behavior. We examine this, among other COVID-19 impacts, in a new white paper called “What Has COVID-19 Taught Us About Consumer Behavior?” We studied the emotions of our proprietary community of trend-setting, forward-thinking shoppers called Clean Label Enthusiasts® (CLE). This participant group of CLEs reported some significant changes in the motivation for buying products after staying home during the virus. We found that people are seeking comfort after the stay-at-home period of living in fear and uncertainty.
Emotional Responses to COVID-19
Throughout our research, we asked our CLE study participants about their emotions during 2020’s events. One thing we look at in our white paper is consumer emotions regarding the shopping experience both before and after the outbreak of the virus. They provided us with the following data about their emotional response to this new world that includes COVID-19.
Participants related an immediate spike in frustration—from 9% pre-COVID to 45% in the first week of April 2020. Part of the frustration was due to the disruption of the shopping routine with stores changing their hours, shopper capacity limitations, product shortages and difficulty with online shopping experiences. It took nearly a month of the new routine for people to get closer to baseline numbers in the data regarding the emotion of frustration.
Before the outbreak of the virus, only 6% of CLE participants reported feeling rushed in their shopping experience. In the first week of April, that number jumped to 34%. Many stores limited the number of customers allowed inside. Sometimes this meant that people had to wait just to enter the store, and therefore felt rushed to finish their shopping. Another facet of this is that people just didn’t feel safe in a public setting and wanted to spend as little time in the store (and potentially exposed to the virus) as possible.
Worry, like the other emotions, spiked the first week of April, according to our study. The biggest difference is that worry did not return to the baseline like the other emotions did—but remained fairly high. We specifically asked our study participants about worry in regard to shopping and found that worry is a prevailing emotion in part because of the communication we receive daily from media outlets.
When defining the baseline for feeling relaxed while shopping, we found that half of CLE participants were relaxed with their shopping experience. In the first week of April, only 9% answered that they felt relaxed in the store where they do their shopping due to the guidelines for social distancing—and also to the visual cues triggered by the new guidelines, both in the store and in the media. Over time, more of CLE admitted to feeling relaxed in the store once they became accustomed to the new rhythm, but the number did not rise to the baseline level.
Our baseline in our ongoing study for feeling satisfied with the shopping experience was an impressive 52%. That tells us that our CLE community members were finding things they needed and generally just being content with their usual stores and routines. In the first week of April, that dropped to 12%. More than other emotions, the feeling of satisfaction rebounded pretty quickly as stores adjusted hours and restocked their shelves.
Acting on the Emotions of Consumers
Once consumers move past all these emotional changes due to COVID-19’s disruption, it is expected that there will be a period of relief. This is a great time for businesses to innovate. Specifically, this is a good time to move to introducing extensions of product lines. People may not be ready for a completely new product because they are still being driven by functional motivators. However, that feeling of relief means they might be ready for a new angle on an existing product with which they are already comfortable. People will want the comfort and security of buying a known product while being open to something different than they have bought in the months since the outbreak.
That being said, your brand should be looking at new products during entry into the recovery phase, whenever that might be. At that point in the timeline, consumers will be motivated by hope and intrigue. That period motivated by hope will be a good time to launch innovations. Want to find out more about how your brand should respond? Reach out to us.