The at-home consumer experience with consumption and expenditure

Daren Briscoe / May 2020 / Research & Data, Thought Leadership

As people’s routines and schedules have been disrupted amid the global pandemic, so have consumption and expenditure patterns.

Whether or not they’ve lost income or jobs, many consumers are adopting a conservative approach to discretionary spending. They’re more focused on immediate needs and many are minimising purchases of nonessential items. At the same time, their consumption habits, particularly when it comes to media, are shifting dramatically.

While the long-term outlook is still unclear, to adapt in the immediate-to-near term, marketers should expect consumer behaviour to focus on meeting everyday needs. People will keep a close eye on budgets and prioritise the purchases that help them meet their needs — physical and mental — at home.

Dollar bill and stack of coins. 71% of people in the G7 say their personal income has or will be impacted by the coronavirus. This is highest in Italy (85%), the U.S. (75%), and Canada (75%).

Consumers are spending with caution

In G7 countries, 71% of people say their personal income has or will be impacted by the coronavirus, according to a Kantar study. This is highest in Italy (85%), the U.S. (75%), and Canada (75%).1 While a BCG report says people who are anticipating changes in their spending habits expect to save more (29%) and spend less (27%) on nonessential items such as fashion and luxuries.2 And week-over-week searches for “free trial” is up over 30%.3

People are focusing on immediate needs

Amid an unpredictable and rapidly changing cycle of news, as well as uncertainty about exactly when the economy will restart, people are also more focused on what they need right now.

Search interest in small business loans is surging.4 And people are also turning to Google for help coping, with searches for “how to fall asleep” (such as, “how to fall asleep quicker” and “how to fall asleep really fast”) between March 22 and March 28 up 50% over the previous week.5

People are consuming more content together, with increased search interest for:

A desktop computer with a monitor ready to play a video and bowl of popcorn. Two search fields contain queries and stats below. “watching together” 4X increase since early January. “family-friendly movies” 3X increase since late February.

Users are consuming more content

As routines and schedules change to meet the demands of isolation, online habits and consumption patterns are also in flux. With more time available, people are consuming content at all hours of the day and night. And as people spend more time with their immediate household, they’re increasingly consuming content together. Search interest in “watching together” is up over 4X since early January.6 And search interest in “family-friendly movies” has spiked 3X since late February.7

While it’s impossible to see around the corner and fully understand what impact this pandemic will have on spending patterns and consumption habits, the shifts we’re seeing now provide a sense of how people are coping. In the months ahead, we’ll all need to adapt by understanding, as best we can, the consumer priorities that emerge in a changed world.

How consumers navigate financial wellness in a time of uncertainty