Survey reveals demographic differences in consumer response to COVID-19

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
man grocery shopping

More men than women are stockpiling groceries and cutting back on spending during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s according to a consumer survey from digital product testing and decision-making platform First Insight, which found gender and generational differences have a lot to do with how shoppers are responding to the virus outbreak. The survey also revealed that news of the COVID-19 virus is impacting the shopping behavior of 75% of respondents, up from 45% compared to a survey fielded in late February. 

According to the survey, the vast majority of respondents reported an impact on product availability (84%) and shortages (72%). Also, a growing number of consumers are shopping more frequently online, with a 62% increase (34% vs. 21% in February). Similarly, the number of consumers shopping less frequently in-store showed a 63% increase (49% vs. 30%). 

However, the survey also reveals some significant demographic differences in how consumers are responding to the pandemic. The following are some highlights arranged by differences in gender and generation.

Seven in 10 (71%) women now say that the virus is impacting where and how they shop, a 115% increase from late February, compared to two-thirds (67%) of men (a 76% increase). Fifty-nine percent of women surveyed said that the virus was impacting how much they spent on products, compared to 56% of men.

Although 46% of all respondents buying more products in anticipation of Coronavirus, 47% of men say they are stockpiling groceries in particular, compared to only 38% of women. 

While millennials report the greatest impact from COVID-19 on purchase decisions (80%, a 48% increase from the previous survey), 73% of baby boomers report an impact, a leading121% increase from the prior survey. However, while 47% of respondents are cutting back on spending overall, only 38% of baby boomers say they are reducing their spend in preparation for greater coronavirus spread.

Baby boomers also show themselves to be outliers in a number of other areas relating to COVID-19 and shopping habits:

•    Similar to men, baby boomers are the generation showing the greatest increase in stocking up over the last three weeks, with 34% now saying they are stocking up compared to only 10% last survey, a 240% increase.

•    Seventy-one percent of baby boomers say immobility has impacted where and how they shop, up 173% from the last survey. Other generations including Generation Z (65%), millennials (72%) and Generation X (72%) show similar impact, but a much less dramatic increase from the last survey.

•    While overall 34% of respondents are shopping more online, more Generation Z (37%), millennials (42%), and Generation X (35%) have increased their shopping online compared to baby boomers (23%). Only 8% of baby boomers reported shifting to online in the first survey; the growth to 34% represents a 187% increase.

•    Similarly, while 49% of overall respondents are shopping less frequently in-store, baby boomers show the greatest percentage increase for shopping less frequently in-store (48%), bringing this generation on par with younger generations including millennials (50%) and Gen Z (51%). The number of baby boomers shopping less in-store increased 118% over the last three weeks, a significantly larger jump than other generations.

•    Only 38% of baby boomers say they are reducing their spend in preparation for greater coronavirus spread, compared to 54% of Generation X, 49% of millennials and 51% of Generation Z.
First Insight’s findings are based on the results of two U.S. consumer studies of targeted samples of more than 500 respondents each, fielded on Feb. 28, 2020 and March 17, 2020. The study was completed through proprietary sample sources among panels who participate in online surveys.

Generations are defined as follows:
•    Baby boomers (1946-1964)
•    Generation X (1965-1979)
•    Millennials (1980-1994)
•    Generation Z (1995-2012) 

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