Shoppers Ready for 'Back to Normal'

New Nielsen survey details post-pandemic shopping, lifestyle trends
Gina Acosta
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A sign at Whole Foods Market shows shoppers the proper way to wear a mask.

The American consumer is feeling confident that the economy is on its way to being back to normal, according to a new study about COVID-19 behaviors Nielsen.

The survey looked at three segments reflecting attitudes about the pandemic. People who are “Ready to Go,” those who “Proceed with Caution” and consumers who “Wait and See” when it comes to resuming normal behavior. The Ready to Go segment peaked at 61% in the March 2021 survey compared with 34% in April 2020. The more pessimistic group of Wait and See consumers dropped to 9% in March 2021 compared with 29% a year ago.

Nearly eight in 10 are now getting items delivered that they ordered online compared with seven in 10 before the pandemic.  

Fewer are now getting items they buy in the store (72%) compared with prior to COVID-19 (78%). That said, getting items purchased in-store is the second most frequent way people get the things they buy.  

More are now getting things they buy in new ways such as having items they bought in a store delivered to their home (38%), as well as in-store (38%) and curbside pickup (35%), compared with those who did so prior to the pandemic (15%, 27% and 22% respectively).

Nearly three in 10 consumers expect to do more in-store shopping in the months ahead compared with the 11% who expect to do that less. 

Consumers expect to do less in-store pickup, less curbside pickup, and less home delivery from local stores in the next year, which suggests that fewer restrictions are likely to spark a return to more normal local shopping habits.   

Other key consumer sentiments about recovery from the pandemic:

  • 82% now say that stores that were closed have started to open again compared with only 40% in April of last year.
  • 64% agree that it is safer than it was a month ago, compared to 38% in April 2020.
  • 72% agree that their town is starting to emerge from the crisis versus 44% a year ago.

More than half (52%) have either gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, have an appointment to get vaccinated, or have registered to get it when eligible. These consumers are more likely to be male and tend to be older.

One in four (26%) are uncertain about getting the vaccine and one in five do not intend to get vaccinated. Those who are uncertain or don’t plan to get the vaccine tend to be younger, female and Hispanic.

Among the employed, two-thirds now work outside the home, up nearly 70% since April. Workers at home due to COVID-19 declined by more than half since April 2020.

All groups are using less public transportation due to COVID-19.

Significant levels of concern remain about the health implications of COVID-19, with 65% more concerned with the health of a family member or a close friend than their own health (53%). 

Nielsen conducted the online survey to gauge the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The survey was administered online among a weighted sample of 1,009 adults 18+ in the U.S. between March 11-15. Nielsen conducted similar surveys in April, May, June and October 2020. 

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