Springing Forward Into a New Normal
by Maggie Ledbetter & Kelsey Schmeckpeper
With hints of warmer weather and leafy greens beginning to peek through the soil, it appears that springtime is right around the corner. We eagerly welcome this new growth after what has felt like an unusually long, cold season. The availability of COVID-19 vaccines, paired with lower case numbers and an ease in restrictions, signal that we are now in a new chapter of the pandemic. There’s a communal sense of having weathered a sustained storm — a storm that has dramatically impacted how consumers feel and behave.
Over two years since COVID-19 first shattered what “normal” means, the pandemic still weighs on consumers’ minds, collectively impacting everything from the way we think, shop, and parent, to the way we socialize, work, and beyond.
At the start of 2022, COVID-19 concern is at its lowest since the pandemic began. However, its impact on consumers’ health, their communities, and the economy is still a concern.
- At the close of February, consumer worries include the pandemic’s effect on the US or world economy (32%), its effect on their personal or family health (26%), and its effect on their local community (25%).
In addition, the weight of the pandemic, paired with social unrest and the crisis in Ukraine, has left many consumers feeling emotionally depleted.
- A year ago, we saw that one in five consumers experienced mental health struggles during the pandemic. Today, this has increased to one in four who indicate that their personal mental health or emotional well-being has become worse in the past three months.
- Women’s wellness is particularly impacted, with 27% indicating their mental health has become worse in the past three months, and 31% saying the same for their emotional well-being. Eighteen percent of men say the same on both measures.
READINESS TO RETURN
Even while concerns persist, and consumers deal with emotional drain (perhaps because of it), they are increasingly ready to put the pieces of their shattered “normal” together again and return to activities they have sorely missed.
A majority now show some level of comfort with and willingness to consider out-of-home dining, gatherings, travel, and public events:
- Eating out sees greatest comfort: 84% would be comfortable outdoor dining at least, and 79% would be comfortable with dining either indoors or outdoors.
- Consumers also show readiness to get back to normalcy with friends and family, with 83% indicating they would host or attend some form of indoor gathering and 67% comfortable with this gathering being larger in size.
- When it comes to travel, 77% are comfortable domestic travel at least, and half (52%) are willing to travel internationally.
- Finally, 75% cite comfort with attending some form of public event, with 64% indicating the event could be held outdoors or indoors.
COVID-19 has acted as both a disruptor and an accelerator, and whether consumers will carry forward their new behaviors differs by category.
- COVID-19 disrupted out-of-home dining, entertainment, and travel, and even two years into the pandemic, behaviors have not returned to pre-pandemic levels. However, consumers are optimistic they’ll engage more in these categories in the coming months.
- COVID-19 accelerated trends already in motion around digital adoption in shopping, dining, and entertainment. Even as consumers move past early pandemic social distancing, they believe their streaming behaviors will continue to increase. Online shopping and food delivery—while still elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels – have stabilized.
As 2022 gets underway, it’s easy to relate to the proverbial groundhog: It exits the burrow, searches for a shadow, and hopes to receive a sign indicating better days are ahead. Consumers look poised to press onward into the “new normal” regardless of global events. They eagerly anticipate participation in new activities and experiences they can share with others, and most consumers want to get back into the rhythm and excitement that the sunnier and brighter skies of spring bring.
As a Senior Analyst, Kelsey immerses herself in the data to identify valuable “ah-ha’s!” and actionable insights for her clients. A storyteller at heart, she weaves individual survey results together into a compelling narrative that helps inform broader business decisions.
Interested in reading more? Check out Maggie’s other article:
From Information to Illumination
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Sources: Feature Image – ©mavoimages – stock.adobe.com