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05/14/2021

Even as COVID Wanes, Pandemic Behaviors Persist

Lingering concerns remain; e-commerce use still elevated: Kantar
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
Bridget Goldschmidt profile picture
Even as COVID Wanes, Pandemic Behaviors Persist Kantar
Pre-pandemic, people bought 21% of their groceries online, but during the crisis, this rose to 35% and is expected to stay at this level through 2021.

Five hundred days after the World Health Organization first became aware of a “pneumonia of unknown cause” in Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31, 2019, and just after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States largely relaxed its mask requirements for vaccinated individuals, data-driven analytics and brand consulting company Kantar has released a new wave of research showing that 42% of people around the world have been personally affected by COVID-19, either having contracted the virus themselves or having had a close relative or friend contract it.

Despite encouraging news from many countries about the pandemic’s grip beginning to ease, however, anxiety remains high, with 70% agreeing that the coronavirus situation still concerns them “hugely” (versus 79% in April 2020). In those countries where the vaccination rate is above 30% and the new case rate is low, stable or declining, the level of concern has dropped from 76% to 57%, while in countries where the case rate isn’t declining, the anxiety level has grown from 75% to 80% currently.

Regarding food and retail, specifically, Kantar found:

  • There has been an across-the-board increase in comfort levels for returning to consumer/social behaviors, but levels still remain low, with about one in three now comfortable with returning to the office, hairdresser, sending children to school, nonfood shopping, going to bars/restaurants, and traveling within their own country.
  • Pre-pandemic, people bought 21% of their groceries online, but during the crisis, this rose to 35% and is expected to stay at this level through 2021. African and Latin American markets saw the biggest increases in grocery e-commerce.
  • Positive online experiences have captured a new committed audience, with 49% of respondents reporting a good online grocery experience, and 38% believing they get a better range of products online. More than one in three now prefer buying groceries online.
  • In the area of price sensitivity, 70% continue to pay more attention to prices, compared with 64% in April 2020, while 58%  a 10% increase pay more attention to products on sale.
  • 52% of all respondents pay more attention to product origins, as opposed to pre-pandemic, including 66% of “eco believers”; 68% prefer supermarkets near their homes, while 64% think that local stores are important for the community.
  • E-commerce now ranks as the No. 1 activity people now take part in more versus pre-pandemic, compared with ranking fifth in May 2020.
  • Healthy eating habits have dipped slightly, having fallen from consumers’ No. 2 intention for post-lockdown life to fourth as an activity people engage in more frequently.

“From this ninth wave of research, it has become clear that, in those countries with a more advanced vaccination program, a resumption of everyday life is on the horizon,” noted Sarah King, global brand domain leader at London-based Kantar. “People have less anxiety, feel more secure and are more open to re-engaging with the world. This is a welcome development, but the long-term outlook is still challenging for a lot of people. We’ve seen a transformation of the retail sector that looks set to stick, and to a lesser extent we’ve seen our good intentions for personal transformation during lockdown wane somewhat.”

Kantar surveyed 11,500 people in 21 countries to understand the impact that the pandemic has had on life across the globe. 

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