epsilon research

How Are Consumers Thinking About Shopping, Eating, Traveling While Covid-19 Remains A Threat

Business Living

One In Seven Are Unsure What Will Make Them Feel Safe To Return To Stores/Restaurants


The COVID-19 pandemic is a historic disruption that’s affecting how we live every day—and consumers are split about how long that will continue. We’re entering Phase 3 of reopening here in Rockland County as COVID-19 cases decline, though they are on the rise in several southern and western states. One in seven consumers have said they do not know what will make them feel safe to return to stores, according to a consumer report by Epsilon, a market research group.

The recent report shows a snapshot of what consumers across six generations are thinking as we head to a new normal.

Gen X, for example, is hoping the pandemic will last a few more months, while the silent generation, those over 75, said they believe it will stretch to the fall or beyond. Even though half of consumers are hopeful life will return to normal in a few months, it’s changing how they spend.

How Are Consumers Food Shopping?

Overall, the majority of consumers across generations are still purchasing their groceries at grocery stores (84%). Consumers view grocery stores as a one-stop shop where they can purchase the majority of their necessary items (both grocery and non-grocery), and eliminate multiple trips to specialty stores to mitigate their risk.

Consumers are still buying groceries in-store—but only at stores that make them feel safe. These stores are cleaning each cart and basket, implementing one-way aisle traffic, and sectioning off each area within the store to limit customers. Gen X, millennials and Gen Z are most likely to order with an app for pick-up, and Gen Z and millennials are also more likely to from an app for delivery.

Still Ordering Online

Over 40% of consumers across generations plan to use online channels to reorder because it’s easier, and they’re pleased with the timing of order processing. 85% of consumers across generations said they can’t always find the grocery item they’re looking for. The silent generation is more likely to find what they need, but their choices appear to be more mainstream and flexible. The top categories most difficult to find are paper products, fresh produce and canned and dry goods.

It’s no surprise that the consumption of snacks and pasta increased the most overall—Gen X, millennials and Gen Z said they’re more likely to have eaten more of these items in the past two weeks, while Gen X and millennials are more likely to drink soda.

Where Are Consumers Shopping?

Amazon is the top retailer—more than half of consumers across the generations said they purchased from Amazon in the past two weeks. Mass-merchandisers, gardening and outdoor retailers and Costco are second. Catalogs, subscription services, sporting goods and home decor are equally popular. Gen Z is buying more in these four categories to make their homes more comfortable, and to stay in physical shape.

When Will Consumers Return To Stores?

Consumers across generations said that when the government says it’s okay and there have been several weeks without any new cases, retail storefronts should reopen. 1 in 7 consumers across generations aren’t sure what will reassure them to return to retail storefronts, while silents are much less likely to be ready to return until after they’ve had COVID-19 or a vaccine.

Although restaurants have begun reopening, consumers across generations are ordering takeout. Their preference is to order via the restaurant’s app or website, and then pick-up either in the restaurant or at curbside instead of getting it delivered.

When Will Consumers Feel It’s Safe To Dine In?

Only 30% of boomers, Gen X, millennials and Gen Z say they’re looking to the government to assure them when it’s safe to start dining in again, but 46% of silent are. Other indicators that it’s safe to return to restaurants are no new reported cases, the consumers who dined at the restaurant remain healthy, and all employees working at the restaurant are healthy.

How Do Consumers Feel About Travel?

Over 30% of consumers across generations (with the exception of silents) said they’ll travel within the US—few are looking forward to traveling to other destinations. Gen Z is the most willing to travel internationally when the ban is lifted at 15%. As far as when consumers will start traveling again, a third say they will travel once the government says it is ok to do so. Boomers are the most likely generation to rely on the government go-ahead. And there’s a subset across all generations who say they’ll wait over a year after they’ve received a vaccine to travel. Three-quarters of millennials and Gen Z are looking forward to boarding a plane for their next trip. But only half of boomers and Gen X are willing to fly, while half are more interested in road trips. Both these modes of transportation outweigh the desire across all generations for taking a cruise.