The vaccine cometh: what’s on consumers’ minds?

42% of consumers plan to shop even more online after the pandemic ends.

COVID-19 vaccines are here! Yay...right? With new, more contagious strains of coronavirus being detected in communities every day, you would think consumers would be wildly excited about the expanding distribution of multiple coronavirus vaccines. While some are standing in (virtual) lines to get vaccinated, turns out, months of quarantine-weariness isn’t enough to overcome weeks of vaccine-skepticism.

  • 59% of consumers plan to get vaccinated while 28% are unlikely and 13% are undecided.
    • Age matters...a bit. More Baby Boomers (63%) expect to be vaccinated than other generations; by contrast, 1 in 3 Gen Zers flat-out said that they would not consider or are unlikely to consider getting the vaccine.
    • “Pro-Corona-Vaxxers” skew male (68% vs. 51%), college-educated (78% vs. 51%), earn more, live in urban/suburban areas, have children (65% vs 56%) , live in the northeast (65%) or western US (69%) vs. Midwest or South (52% and 53%, respectively)

What do consumers plan to do after the vaccine is generally available and the pandemic comes to an end?

We returned to a question we asked consumers at the end of the summer—what they expect to do more (or less) of after the pandemic is over, now that the end seems in sight (albeit still a ways off)? While our earlier survey asked consumers what they expected to do versus before the pandemic, we changed up the question a little now that we’ve been quarantining and distancing for most of the year and the end of the pandemic is far less theoretical. This time, we asked consumers what they expected to do versus their behaviors now. Let’s just say we were surprised. 

  • Consumers are doubling down on quarantine-induced habits when the pandemic ends. Those likely to get vaccinated are more likely to engage in in-person activities, suggesting they expect to feel safer doing things like dining out (+13% pts vs. anti-vaxxers), hugging (+11% pts.), and attending concerts (+14% pts.)  
  • 53% of consumers report that “wearing masks during flu season” is the top activity they expect to do more, followed by “eating in/cooking at home” and “seeing family/friends” (45% each) 
  • Surprising things more people will be doing less of versus now: shaking hands, flying, going to the gym, attending concerts and sporting events. Reminder: few people are doing these things today.
  • Surprising things more people will be doing more of versus now: eating/cooking at home, shopping online, working out at home. These are behaviors the pandemic forced people to do more often than they were doing before.
Vaccines may end the pandemic - percentages chart

Consumers have developed a new muscle memory – shopping online by default

  • Once consumers get vaccinated (or, at a minimum no longer feel at risk of becoming infected), more than one-third (37%) expect to shop in-store more often versus now, and another 46% plan to do the same amount of online shopping—meaning online shopping will remain the “default” shopping channel for the majority of consumers.  
  • In fact, 42% of consumers plan to do even more online shopping compared to now (and they are currently already making 59% of their purchases online!) 
    • Gen Z (51%) are the most eager to do more online shopping  
  • Since Covid, consumers report that 59% of their shopping is online (up from 39% pre-Covid).  Looking ahead to a “post-Covid world”, they expect they will do 56% online.  In other words...not much is changing, and online shopping is now the default. 
    • A vaccine would therefore likely not have a significant impact on the historic +18 % point upswing in online shopping when the pandemic first broke out.
Online shopping vs In store shopping percentages chart

Consumers who plan to shop in-store again are looking for a different experience

  • Once consumer confidence is restored, the #1 reason they will shop more in-store compared to now is simply to be able to get out of the house (53%). So…let’s say the bar is somewhat low—but also it creates the risk that consumers will see in-store shopping as a fungible experience to, say, going to a park or a movie theater. 
  • That is a fundamentally new mindset, and bolstered by the fact that 40% of consumers are looking for in-store shopping to become a “kind of entertainment”.
  • For apparel and other try-before-you-buy categories: 46% of consumers also say that another key in-store shopping driver is to try or touch things before buying 
  • Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) want to shop in-store to discover products (because maybe wandering through Google doesn’t have the same appeal). 

While the arrival of the vaccine won’t change consumers’ online shopping behavior much, we are kind of hoping more of the 1 in 3 Gen Zers change their minds about getting the vaccine so we can all get past this pandemic together. Kids these days, amirite?

BOXpoll™ by Pitney Bowes, a weekly consumer survey on current events, culture, and ecommerce logistics. Conducted by Pitney Bowes with Morning Consult //2094 US consumers surveyed December 2020.© Copyright Pitney Bowes Inc.

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