Beginning March 23 and tracking more than 14,000 U.S. consumers to date to assess changes in attitudes and activities during the pandemic, PYMNTS’ latest installment in our Navigating The COVID-19 Pandemic series, The Great Reopening: Shifting Preferences, shows that more people want to head outdoors, back to work and life writ large, despite lingering disease fears.
PYMNTS’ May 23 survey took a different tack from earlier samples and identified four distinct personae among respondents: “Social shifters” who went online out of sheer pandemic necessity but will return to physical activities including shopping; “safety shifters” who have gone digital, from groceries to gardening, and may stay that way; “convenience shifters” who prize speed and convenience above all and tend to be digital-first; and “office shifters” working from home but longing for a return to the office and familiar pre-pandemic workday routines.
“U.S. consumers are growing interested in returning to their typical activities, with more of them saying they are eager to leave their homes in late May compared to one month prior,” the new report states. “Our study shows 36.1 percent of all consumers are now ‘very’ or ‘extremely interested’ in going back out … compared to 28.5 percent … on April 27.”
Digital-first convenience shifters want to get outside more than any other group. “Our survey finds 77.7 percent and 66 percent of convenience shifters who want to go back out cite wanting to dine at restaurants and go to leisurely events, respectively, while 59.5 percent cite a desire to travel within the U.S.,” according to the latest survey.
“Convenience shifters may have more reasons for wanting to leave their homes, but office shifters are far more likely to want to go back to working in their normal professional settings. Our study reveals that 47.8 percent of office shifters want to go back to work on site, for example, compared to 24 percent of the sample average.”
Of all the groups, “safety shifters” are perhaps the largest market opportunity to digital platforms and marketplaces. Fears of catching COVID-19 have subsided little for these folks since the outbreak, and their digital shift is sticking in a number of areas, like grocery.
“Consumers who have gone online to do their grocery shopping are the most likely to say they consider it crucial that merchants provide digital alternatives,” according to the new report.
“Our survey shows 52.3 percent of safety shifters feel it is ‘very’ or ‘extremely important’ for merchants to provide such options going forward, compared to 43.1 percent of social and 42.9 percent of convenience shifters.”
Meanwhile, it’s the “office shifter” group that sees digital as the primary channel going forward from here — a fundamentally reordering of the pre-pandemic pecking order.
“Office shifters plan to use digital shopping options more than other consumers after the pandemic has passed,” the report states, “and are the most likely to say they will keep shopping online, using mobile order-ahead, ordering food from online aggregators and ordering food from restaurants once daily life returns to normal. Our research shows 75.7 percent of this group who are now using mobile order-ahead more often plan to continue doing so at least ‘somewhat’ as often, as do 71.8 percent of social and 71.4 percent of convenience shifters.”