Short term and long term changes to consumer behavior
In this section, we’ll look at two sets of numbers:
- The % of consumers who planned to do a certain activity in 2020 before the pandemic took hold
- The % of consumers who planned to do a certain activity in 2020 before the pandemic and that still plan to do the activity in 2020
At the beginning of 2020, the auto industry was in trouble. CNN reported: “The global auto industry plunged deeper into recession in 2019, with sales dropping more than 4% as carmakers struggled to find buyers in China and India. The pain is likely to continue this year.”
This was before anyone realized just how bad things would get.
Around 13% of our survey respondents had planned to buy a car in 2020 before the outbreak took hold. Now, just 58% of people who planned to buy a car still intend to.
The potential for a 42% drop in car sales could be devastating, especially when the car industry is so integral to the world economy.
Even the motoring enthusiasts are talking about buying cars less. On r/cars, where people discuss their dream cars, ask for advice on their current cars, and talk about what cars they might buy themselves, intent to purchase mentions were down 13% in March and April compared to January and February.
Leisure and travel
We also asked our respondents about their plans for booking or going on vacation, and whether they planned to buy tickets for festivals or gigs in 2020.
Pre-pandemic, 43% of respondents said they planned to book or go on a vacation in 2020. Post-outbreak, just 52% of those consumers still plan to.
Meanwhile, before the outbreak 22% of our respondents said they planned to buy tickets for festivals and gigs in 2020. Now, just 44% of them still plan to.
Again, these aren’t the happiest numbers. That said, for vacations, there are potential alternatives for big trips abroad.
Using our Consumer Research platform, we’ve found a recent increase in English-language mentions of staycations and camping, as people look closer to home when planning for the year ahead.
“Staycation” mentions in January – April 2020 were up 41% compared to the same period in 2019.
Camping is a particularly popular alternative to traditional vacations. In March and April, there were 375k social authors discussing camping plans as an alternative to a trip abroad. Meanwhile, hiking and backpacking are also key drivers of conversation.
The pandemic has got people looking longingly to the great outdoors, especially amid lockdown measures. But even the ‘alternative’ trips mentioned above may be restricted for a while, depending on the country.
When we asked people about changes they plan to make to their homes, the results were pretty similar even though the price points for each option are significantly different.
For our question about plans pre-Covid-19 outbreak, 18% of respondents planned to buy new furniture, 18% planned to do large scale home improvements, and 11% planned to move house in 2020.
Now the outbreak has taken hold across the globe, around 60% of people intend to go through with their plans.
- 63% still plan to do large scale home improvements in 2020
- 63% still plan to buy a new house/apartment in 2020
- 60% still plan to buy new furniture this year in 2020
Note: See our section on buying furniture online below – the popularity of buying these items may be dependent on lockdown measures being eased.
All this tallies with the social data we’ve gathered around how people are spending time in their own homes. March saw 86% more social posts about organizing the home than January did, while Marie Kondo has seen a boost in social mentions and Google searches. Interest in ‘DIY’ has also seen a similar increase, with people working on painting and fixing up furniture.