JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The widespread adoption of working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting not only what people buy but how they feel about their shopping experience, according to full-service sales and marketing agency Acosta's sixth research report providing insight into the continuing evolution of consumer behavior and outlook during the crisis.
This information is particularly relevant to retailers planning for the long term, as the report also found that working from home may continue for an extended period of time.
"Nearly three months into this crisis, many states are beginning to open back up, but most shoppers expect to continue to work from home until at least the fall," said Acosta CEO Darian Pickett. "Working from home has greatly impacted what, when and how much people are eating throughout the day, which in turn affects their shopping and purchasing behavior. This will have major implications on manufacturers and retailers who will need to sustain current shopping behaviors for at least a few more months."
The new report found that 57 percent of working shoppers have worked from home full time since the beginning of the pandemic. Just over a quarter of shoppers expect (26 percent) to return to their usual workplace in July; another 26 percent don't expect to return until October; 14 percent expect to return by the end of the year; and 34 percent either expect to work from home indefinitely or are unsure when they will return.
It also found that 66 percent of shoppers think a recession will hit the United States by the end of 2020, and 42 percent believe a recession would last more than a year.
Shoppers who are working from home are also keeping closer to home with their purchasing habits. Twenty-four percent of shoppers report buying more products made in the U.S., while 17 percent are buying more local brands. Among those buying more local brands, 42 percent specifically wanted to support more local businesses and brands right now and 69 percent may consider buying more local brands post-pandemic.
Shoppers have also noticed a decrease in product variety, with 69 percent noticing a significant decrease or somewhat of a decrease in variety of non-food items; 60 percent noticing less variety in meat and seafood; and 52 percent seeing less variety in shelf-stable foods. Regardless of the category, 90 percent of shoppers are bothered by the decrease in variety.
Additionally, more than one third of shoppers feel anxious or stressed when they can't get what was always available prior to the pandemic.
The report's research was gathered via online surveys between May 15 and May 2. It also includes comparison data from online surveys conducted between May 3 and 5; April 17 and 23; April 3 and 7; March 20 and 29; and March 6 and 12. The full report is available for download here.
Jacksonville-based Acosta provides a range of outsourced sales, marketing and retail merchandising services throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.