The COVID-19 Lifestyle Changes Survey – What We’ve Learned So Far

A look back over what we’ve learned about our lifestyles and ourselves since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 4th of this year, Brand Keys and TheCustomer published the findings from our first COVID-19 Lifestyle Changes Survey.  It was intended to identify some of the more substantial and important behavioral changes in American lifestyles during the pandemic.  We worked with Suzy, the real-time survey company, to deploy these questions to a random sampling of American consumers. What follows is a look back over what we’ve learned about ourselves since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before we dive into our findings, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge and Suzy as the perfect platform for this kind of “as-it-happens” understanding.  Their system polled – in real-time – from a huge universe of Americans and was able to deliver the results back for analysis almost within moments.  That kind of immediacy allowed us lot more agility than is normal in these kinds of things.  Thanks to the team at Suzy for being such great partners.

Quarantine Lifestyle Survey – 6 Weeks In from TheCustomer on Vimeo.

If you think back to what you recall as the “beginning” of the pandemic – or at least the beginning of how it affected you personally – it wouldn’t surprise me if many of these changes track accordingly.  Assuming you reside in the U.S., we have been polling people who are, in some ways, just like you.

The First “Wave”: The New, New Normal

Biggest Movers

Our data indicated that the biggest changes at that moment were:

  • Working from Home (+34%)
  • Online Activities (+26%)
  • Watching Movies (+23%)
  • Watching TV (+19%)

To be frank, we expected that these would be the biggest changes and this survey did not produce many surprises.  It did however, provide us with a solid baseline against which we could (and did) measure changing behaviors subsequently.  You can find the survey details from the first wave here.

Wave #2: Shopping, Sleeping, Snacking, and Sex Are Up

On April 15, approximately 45 days into the pandemic, we released the finding from wave 2 of the COVID-19 Lifestyle Changes Survey and while we expected some of these changes, the big surprise – or at least the big headline was that we appeared to be having more sex – a lot more sex.

april 15 covid lockdown lifestyle trackerAlthough Personal Care jumped from 11% to 15%, and Working from Home jumped from 31% to 34%, the 3-point move in sexual intimacy was enough to get people’s attention and generate a whole lot of feedback and raised eyebrows.  You can see the underlying data and our other findings from Wave #2 here.

Wave #3: The Spikes are Flattening

On April 22 we published the results from Wave #3 of the survey and found some flattening of the various change curves.  As a nation, we seemed to be “settling in” and finding our patterns.  Behaviors that a mere 3 weeks earlier had been novel or even fun, were becoming a bit less so and even routine.

Covid 19 Lifestyle Changes TrackerThe biggest mover was Watching Streaming TV & Movies, which moved from 15% to 21%.  Its difficult to make any direct correlation but during that same period, the major broadcast and streaming services had released more programming available than at any other time in recent history.  The findings from wave #3 can be found here.

Wave #4: Consumer Behavior Reaches Saturation Levels

On May 4, exactly one month to-the-day after posting the results of the first wave of research, and approximately 60 days into quarantine, we published the fourth wave.  The results indicated an across-the-board plateau in almost all of the behaviors we had been tracking.  Robert Passikoff, CEO of Brand Keys said it best. “Twelve weeks of enforced couch-potatoing watching movies can become mind-numbing.”

COVID-19 Survey data

Although “Working from Home” and “Online Activities” were still identified as the biggest changes, they still only moved slightly from earlier surveys.  You can find Wave 4, all of its supporting data, and a brief discussion between Robert Passikoff and myself here.

And then we shifted our focus.

The next survey can’t really be called a “wave” because it is a marked departure in what we were asking.  Whereas waves 1 through 4 gauged changes in past (recent past) consumer behaviors, we designed the next survey to gauge anticipated changes once quarantine restrictions were lifted.

first thing after quarantine

Key findings:

  • Eat at a restaurant (62%) versus Participating in outdoor sports or recreational activities (31%)
  • Visit a barber or beauty salon (58%) versus Working out at a gym (29%)
  • Go shopping (58%) versus Having drinks or cocktails at a bar (30%)
  • Travel domestically (35%) versus Travel internationally (18%)
  • Get together with friends (56%) versus Going to a live performance or concert (24%)

Some of the bigger surprises were how many people were looking forward to “going back to work” (56%) – we anticipated a lower percentage, and that “hugging & kissing your mom/dad/kids” only registered at 33%.  You can find the complete results from the forward-looking changes survey here.


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