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Published August 27, 2020

The UK during the Coronavirus Pandemic - Insights from 5 representative Consumer Studies

UK Coronavirus

A lot has changed since March 24 when the market research platform Appinio published its first Coronavirus Consumer Study for the UK - changes in everyday life, perception of the government and preventative measures due to new regulations and information about the ongoing pandemic. Since then, Appinio surveyed 5,000 Brits between the ages of 16 and 65 and published a total of five Coronavirus Consumer Reports.


The studies covered, among others, the following topics: concerns about health, information procurement, behavioural changes, buying behaviour for food and non-food products, new experiences when shopping off- and online or political subjects such as travel regulations. 


The results presented are only an excerpt from the five studies on the leisure and consumption behaviour of Brits during the coronavirus crisis. The studies were published between March and August 2020 - The complete study results can be downloaded free of charge:

Download full report 

Main Insights from the studies conducted between March and August: 

No changes in the main concerns related to coronavirus since March 

Between April and August, Brits expressed the same top 4 concerns with respect to the virus: 1. Risk of infection for family & friends, 2. Long-lasting economic consequences, 3. Risk of infection for themselves & 4. Personal financial consequences. Depending on the current situation, the importance of other concerns has been varying over the last months. In March, 39% named a possible mass panic as one of their biggest fears. In June, 27% feared to get poor health care in case of a coronavirus infection while in August the fifth biggest fear was public life coming to a complete standstill (27%). At the same time, Brits’ concerns about their own health have, on average, been continuously decreasing in the last months.


Increasing share of Brits is taking steps to decrease the risk of infection 

Even back in March, the majority of Brits were already performing multiple preventative measures to decrease the risk of infection with coronavirus. Compared to the first measurement, even more Brits are using hand sanitizer (59% vs. 74%) or avoiding public transport (54% vs. 60%) for example. Of course, the most drastic changes can be seen in the share of Brits wearing respiratory masks because of the new regulations in place. In August, 69% reported to wear masks while in March only 9% did that. However, Brits are now less likely to avoid certain groups of people than in March: 46% avoid contact to risk groups (-4%-pt., e.g. elderly) and 25% avoid contact to people from affected regions (-4%-pt.).




Brits’ life satisfaction overall higher in August than at the beginning of the crisis  

After some ups and downs over the past months, Brits were more satisfied in every area of their lives in August than in March. The lowest levels of satisfaction have continuously been in the areas of holiday & travel, freedom of movement and social life - areas that were most impacted by the crisis. The biggest increase in satisfaction between March and August was in the area of supply and care (3.6/6 in March vs. 4.17/6 in August). 


Shrinking approval of the government’s handling of the crisis 

Governments had to move quickly in the past months, constantly adapting to the new numbers and insights from scientists. In all 5 studies, the most used news channels for coronavirus related information were: 1. TV, 2. Online news channels, 3. Government website, 4. Radio news, 5. Friends & family. However, the perception of this news wasn’t as stable over time. While in April, 57% of the British population were rating their government’s handling of the crisis positively, that number declined in the following months. In June, only 38% of Brits said they were rating the handling of the crisis of the British government (rather) positively. In April, 15% of Brits even said that coronavirus changed their opinion about Brexit - 6% of them now being against it and 9% now newly being in favour of it. 


Home-workouts, alcohol consumption and fresh food -  COVID’s impact on health behaviour 

“I will use the lockdown to get in great shape” - probably someone you follow on socials said that back in March? The data show that the pandemic ended up having some positive, but also several negative effects on people’s healthy habits in the UK. While more than half of Brits are still spending more time online, streaming series and films for example, 51% are also cooking more often than before the crisis. In March, 18% said they were taking more walks than before. That number went all the way up to 45% in August. On the one hand, between 36% and 39% of Brits said they were working out less frequently at the gym between March and August, while on the other hand, 20% to 24% were doing more home workouts than before. While one fifth of Brits said they were buying fewer cigarettes in March than before, only 9% said so in August. Also, between 15% and 22% of Brits said they were buying less alcohol, while 18% to 27% said they were buying more during the last months. One third of Brits also said that they were buying more fruits and vegetables in August (33% and 31%). 


Increasing shift from offline to online shopping 

In March, 41% were already shopping more online than before. That was the case for 62% of Brits in August. At the same time the share of Brits shopping less offline in stores also went up from 28% to 48%. However, the decrease in offline shopping is not always directly translated into an increase in online shopping. In August, the share of people buying clothing more often offline than online went down by 25%-pt. (47% vs. 22%) while the share of people buying more frequently online than offline only went up by 19%-pt. (33% vs. 52%).


Long-term changes of the work environment because of the pandemic?  

It was an immense challenge for businesses to change their processes from one day to the other in the beginnings of the coronavirus outbreaks. In June, 57% of the working population said they are working from home and in August 48% are still doing that. It seems that employees grew more and more accustomed to this new situation: In April, 69% of those working from home said they could imagine spending more time working from home even after the crisis - in June that number was already at 75% (+6%-pt.).




Pressure on travellers and the travel industry - most trips postponed until 2021 

The pandemic had huge consequences for the travel industry. In March, 44% of Brits had already cancelled a trip because of coronavirus. In May, 55% said they would rather wait until 2021 for their next trip even if travelling was allowed again and 81% of those who had planned a trip already cancelled it. 21% said that they might not even go on a holiday in 2021. With travel regulations changing day by day in Europe and around the world, travellers are under additional pressure: In August, 53% of Brits reported that they would support the enforcement of automatic quarantine for people returning to the UK from foreign countries with high levels of infections,  93% would support mandatory coronavirus screenings. Almost half would be in favour of implementing the same rules for travellers returning from regions at risk inside the UK (44%). 


The full reports contains more than 35 pages of consumer behavior insights each, focusing on topics like general concerns, concerns about health, sources and trust of information, changes in leisure activities and hobbies, grocery shopping behavior and brand loyalty.

Download full report 


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Appinio Research   •   May 14, 2020 2:18:04 PM