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27 March 2020

Consumer behaviour in the times of change

Fastuna ran a short survey in five markets on the 24th of March 2020, asking people about their lives, attitudes and behaviours in the situation of uncertainty. Here is a short summary of what they said. The full reports are available via links following individual country summaries.
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We can see the disruption to people’s lives everywhere, though in some markets it is more pronounced than others. For example, there is variation in purchase patterns and behaviours. Aside from the influence of cultural aspects, the differences seem to be in line with where the country is in terms of the virus incidence and the knock on effect on the media, government measures and therefore people’s sentiment.

The overriding sentiment observed in all markets is fear, anxiety and worry about the future. It is less of a case in Russia due to the engrained scepticism and the fact that they had more time to prepare as the pandemic was unfolding and other countries were setting the precedent for strong measures.

People are particularly concerned about the financial situation and how the crisis will impact future lives and the global economy. This is less pronounced in Germany, where they seem to remain confident in their social support systems.

People are worried about their health but more particularly the health of their loved ones. Most people understand how serious the situation is and support government measures (% varies by country).

The majority in all markets support border closure and event cancellations, while support for other restrictions vary. Strict lockdown — quarantine — is strongly supported by Italians, less so by other countries. Many in the UK, Germany and Italy trust the advice of their government, although this is not the case in Russia and the USA.

We observe significant changes to consumer purchasing habits. On average 40% of consumers in all markets (lower in Russia) reported that they significantly reduced their shopping and were buying only essential items. Consumers are also trying to keep the number of shopping trips to a minimum. Otherwise online shopping is still not very widespread in all markets. Stockpiling has also been observed which shows consumers were / are preparing for the lockdown.
Italians have been hit hard but optimistic about the future.
Italy being ahead of the curve, actually shows a more optimistic view on the future — hoping the situation will improve in 3 months time. "Hopefully it will pass soon". The majority are supportive of strict measures employed by the government as they understand how serious the situation is. At the same time they are tired as well and some say they can't live like this anymore. Italians are by far most approving of the strict quarantine measures in the country, which stands out in comparison to other markets.

They are also very much concerned about the future economic situation and believe it will hit them, their country and the whole world, hard.

In comparison to other markets it is evident that Italians have really stocked up with essential products, such as water, long life products, frozen food, papers, tissues, disinfectants and such.

"It is a big problem now worldwide and we have all underestimated the gravity but I am sure how we will be able to overcome it by collaborating." Female, 22

"This is a serious situation and we must do everything possible to stay at home and not have contacts with other people for purely healthy purposes so as to do good both to ourselves and to others, it is not a simple influence and many people are dying, we do everything we can to make this never happen again, we are all stronger" Female, 18

View the full Italian report here: (use right click to translate in Google Chrome for immediate translation. Scroll down to read quotes about the Coronavirus in consumer's own words!).
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Russians are sceptical at the start of the journey.
Russia is at the other end of the scale compared to Italy. The incidence of the virus related cases is low. There seem to be mixed opinions in society. Almost a half feel the virus being a great health hazard is highly exaggerated, while others express concern about the situation. "Very unsettling. I am not sure people know the true situation in the country" Female 55

This is reflected in the lesser change in habits and behaviour as well as shopping patterns, where over a half say their plans have not been affected.

Similarly to Germans over half of Russians believe in their healthcare system to cope with the demands of the virus. Russia is also the country with the highest mention of Coronavirus being some sort of a conspiracy theory.

"The government is using this as a diversion to hide something. Something else is going on here. I've never seen anything like it." Male 45

"Someone is interested in creating a crisis, that's why the situation is being spun out of control to also test how media can control the population and manipulate their behaviour" Female, 47

Like Italians and Americans, over a half of Russians believe that the situation will improve in 3 months time. "We will definitely become extinct but not just yet" Female, 46

Also some constructive comments were mentioned by the respondents. Showing people have hope and ready for action. "Instead of panicking take practical measures." Male 57
'It is a global problem, we need to work together' Male 58

View the full Russian report here: (use right click to translate in Google Chrome. Scroll down to read what they write about the Coronavirus in their own words!).
USA doubtful about the government measures
Possibly due to being slightly behind the curve on the spread of the virus US consumers still make frequent shopping visits. Also, the USA is on par with Italy for stocking up with food, however this could be partially down to the culture, facilitated by larger houses and storage.

People are undecided about whether or not to trust the government. Only 41% trust the government measures, while 38% are unsure. This is also reflected in the open ended responses with mentions of disapproval of Presidents Trump's inaction. Also less than 50% believe that their healthcare system will cope with the demands of the current situation.

While behaviour hasn't changed as much as in other markets there is definitely an emotional imprint of the global situation. The sentiment is reflected in the open ended answers where the word 'scary' is often used. The US citizens are worried about their family and friends.

As well as Brits they are concerned that there will be a shortage of essential goods. Following Russia on scepticism, Americans think that the information about the virus is exaggerated. And a quarter feel that the measures aimed at stopping the virus are unnecessary (in line with Russia and the UK).

'I do not think Mr. Trump took the early signs of the virus seriously enough.' Male, 64

' It's a scary situation and I really worry about the lack of food on the shelves at the stores. Even a lot of the medicines are gone and if an outbreak does happen there won't be enough medical equipment for everyone' Female 34

View the full USA report here: (use right click to translate in Google Chrome for immediate translation. Scroll down to read individual quotes about the Coronavirus!).
Brits are in shock as the lockdown introduced
We interviewed people straight after the big announcement of the lockdown on Monday and it seems to have an impact on the results for the UK. We can see quite a lot of fear and concerns about the future: the health of their loved ones and their financial situation. Brits were quite pessimistic in general, though most of them do trust the government in introducing extra measures to stop the virus.

There are concerns that the NHS (the UK universal health service provider) will not adequately handle the pandemic as the level of trust in the system is the lowest out of the five countries (around a third) we surveyed.

86% of people do not approve of panic buying, which is the highest across markets though almost half bought more long life products and a third admitted to stockpiling on paper products (toilet paper, tissues, kitchen towels). "Panic buyers are an utter disgrace, leaving nurses and the elderly without." Female, 51.

61% think there will be a shortage of food and other essentials. "The situation here has been really burdensome, I beg the agencies to assist by sending relief materials to people to help sustain them as we are going into shortage." Male, 24

There are high numbers of self employed people in the UK and this is reflected in many comments about the subject. "As a self employed person I need financial help now". Male, 63.

"I am concerned that there will be a lot of people affected by this, both emotionally and financially" Male, 58.

"I think the general public have been the most disappointing aspect about all of this — panic buying continuously, refusing to maintain social distancing protocols, being generally thoughtless". Male, 30

"I am honestly more scared of the financial implications right now than actually catching it. I will really struggle to keep going more than a few weeks". Female, 51

View the full UK report here: (use right click to translate in Google Chrome for immediate translation. Scroll down to read individual quotes about the Coronavirus!).
The situation is troubling but manageable in Germany
As in other countries the general sentiment in Germany is of concern for their loved ones and for the future. Though there are quite a few bleak comments amongst the Germans related to the current situation, they believe that with all the measures, the crisis is manageable. Germans are less worried than others about their long term financial position, potentially suggesting confidence in their support systems. Over half trust that their healthcare system is capable of handling the situation. The majority are in favour of the government measures and that all unnecessary activities should be stopped. Germany and Italy show the highest levels of trust in their government.

They don't think the risks are exaggerated but believe they will get out of it strong, less affected than other markets. Around a half claim their future plans haven't been disturbed by the situation with Coronavirus, but at the same time Germans expect it to get worse over the next 3 months.

This situation means a deep cut in personal life, with the abandonment of many loved and everyday things. However, these measures are necessary to stop the outbreak of the virus. Male, 49

There are also positive effects: Environmentally friendly nursing professions finally get the appreciation they deserve Male, 64

Since I am a nurse myself, I am very aware of the situation and therefore I am glad that if you have followed the numbers in all countries from the beginning, we can definitely say that we are getting infected more slowly than I think. Personally, this shows me that the current measures are the right ones. I also think that we reacted earlier to protect our oldest. In some shops I still see the dispute as controversial, since there are still too many people in the same shop and some are still unreasonable … but I remain optimistic that Germany will master it well in comparison! Female, 26

All measures are correct. Caution without panic. Male, 59

See the Germany report here: (use right click to translate in Google Chrome for immediate translation. Scroll down to read quotes about the Coronavirus!).
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