coronavirus and the american consumer

Coronavirus & The American Consumer

Suzy just published the results of a survey to determine how the American consumer is reacting to, and anticipating the future of Coronavirus.

Suzy is a real-time market research platform that brands are using for quick, timely and deep consumer insights that drive brand visibility and engagement.  Their team just published the results of a survey they conducted to determine the state of the American consumer and how they are reacting to, responding to, and anticipating the future of Coronavirus.

The study was conducted on March 2nd and 3rd and, as we now know, a lot changes and it changes quickly with this threat.  So, whereas some of the more date-sensitive information may be out of date by now, the report nonetheless provides some eye-opening insights into how Americans are dealing with this.

Background & Methodology

Suzy conducted a survey of 860 U.S. consumers weighted for census representation inclusive of age, gender, ethnicity & region.  Dates of Study: March 2nd – 3rd, 2020

Context of Timeline

March 2nd: The state of Washington in the US has reported four more death cases, taking the total to six in the country. The total cases in the country stand at 91, of which 45 are repatriated citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and three from Wuhan.

March 3rd: The death toll in the US has increased to nine, with additional deaths reported in the state of Washington.

All the deaths so far have been reported from Washington; eight from King County and one in Snohomish County. The total cases in Washington stand at 27.

Total cases in the US stand at 124.

How Worried Are Americans?

81% have at least some concern with the coronavirus, with 37% saying they are “Very Concerned”.

  • Parents are 2x more concerned than non-parents
  • Females are slightly more concerned than Males
  • Millennials are far less concerned vs. Gen X and Baby Boomer populations

Parents vs Non-Parents

Overall Parents are taking more preventative measures than Non-Parents.

  • Parents are significantly more likely to select “very concerned” than non-parents (47% vs. 29%)
  • Parents are buying most preventative items more than non-Parents. (71% vs. 49%)
  • Parents are significantly more likely to limit their spending (39% vs. 28%)
  • Parents are significantly more likely to withdraw their money from the bank (21% vs. 12%)
  • Parents disinfecting home (51% vs. 31%) and office (35% v. 18%)

In-Demand Brands Since the Outbreak

  • Consumers have spent about 20% more on the purchase of toiletries, cleaning supplies, food/groceries and medicine.
  • Consumers are 25% less likely to try new brands during this crisis, sticking to what they know

Purchase of Perceived Prevention Products

  • 42% have purchased at least 1 “prevention product” that they would not have purchased in the
    past, or more of existing “prevention products”.
  • 15% of consumers who purchased organic cleaning products in the past are now switching to chemically based solutions during crisis

Retail Buying Behaviors

Wholesale retailers have seen a major increase in volume amongst existing shoppers since the outbreak.

  • Amazon +7%
  • Walmart +11%
  • Target +12%
  • Sam’s Club +15%
  • Costco +22%

Many consumers mentioned that they would rather shop in person during this time as they don’t know if they can trust Amazon to deliver in a reliable fashion.


  • In times of crisis consumers gravitate towards brick & mortar retailers perhaps driven by perception of being in control
  • Bulk buying trend may continue long term as crisis has created new entry point consumers to wholesale channels

Products Sourced from China

  • 69% of respondents are concerned about US brands sourcing ingredients/parts from China
  • Half of respondents say sourcing from China is already impacting their purchasing decisions
  • 22% are starting to check company’s website for more information
  • 20% are starting to consider not buying


  • Supply chain transparency is now paramount
  • May ignite a longer-term trend in consumers seeking domestically made products
  • Made in America have a resurgence coming out of crisis

Impact to Leisure & Entertainment

Consumers have spent an estimated 12% less on leisure & entertainment activities which involve public gatherings since the outbreak.

  • Fitness Classes -13%
  • Sporting Events -7%
  • Live Concerts -9%
  • Movies -15%
  • Restaurants & Bars -11%

There has been a greater cutback on frequent activities vs. more seminal events such as concert and sporting events. 36% have said they are now “less willing to go out”


  • Creation of outdoor entertainment & fitness experiences
  • Partner with trusted “Sanitizing brands” for “seal of approval for theatres and restaurants
  • Limiting capacity to indoor venues Massive in-home entertainment opportunities

Travel has Seen the Most Dramatic Impact

With Spring Break upon us and Summer travel around the corner, the travel industry is in a state of disarray due to the Coronavirus.  The most in-demand international destinations are now Caribbean and Mexico which consumers see as low risk. Asia is seen as the largest travel risk followed by Europe.  Many consumers cited a renewed interest in exploring new domestic travel destinations this summer.

coronavirus and the american consumer


  • Prepare for increase in domestic tourism
  • Concept of “road trip” will likely see a resurgence as air travel fears continue (i.e. rental car boom)
  • “Staycation” like experiences locally will grow Everything old is new again.

Trusted Sources

Consumers are seeking timely information on the Coronavirus across a wide range of mediums.

  • Half of consumers trust scientists/doctors most for virus information
  • 45% trust national news sources
    Only 19% trust the U.S. government to provide accurate and actionable information
  • 63% of 18-24 year olds are primarily turning to social media for information.
  • Twitter is the social media platform that is found to be the most trusted during this crisis while Facebook has the least amount of trust.


  • Brands as trusted sources as consumers seek trusted advisors
  • Build brand equity during coming downcycle by helping consumers with timely content

When Will This All End?

We asked when people though life in the United States would be “completely back to normal”?

  • 35% believe this Summer will see a return to normalcy for Americans
  • 23% (down from 30% just a week ago) believe this situation will be in control this Spring. People are becoming less optimistic week by week.
  • 30% believe it will be until at least this Fall until life gets back to normal
  • 10% still believe that somehow this situation will dissipate during this month of March 2020 (we all hope they are right)

You can find out more about Suzy’s research and findings here.

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