The UK and the Coronavirus Pandemic - Insights from 5 representative Consumer Studies Published: 27. August 2020

UK Coronavirus

A lot has changed since 24th March when the market research platform Appinio published its first UK Coronavirus Consumer Study. It measured changes in everyday life, perception of the government and preventative measures from new regulations and information on 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 the following topics: concerns about health, how those surveyed received their information, behavioural changes, buying behaviour for food and non-food products, new experiences when shopping off- and online and political subjects such as travel regulations, as well as many other topic. 


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:

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Main Insights from the March and August Studies: 

There have been no changes to the main coronavirus concerns 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. The importance of their other concerns has varied over the last months. In March, 39% named a possible mass panic as one of their biggest fears. In June, 27% feared receiving poor health care in the event that they caught coronavirus whereas in August the fifth largest fear was public life coming to a complete standstill (27%). At the same time, Brits’ concerns about their own health has, on average, continuously decreased in the last months.


Increasing share of Brits are taking steps to decrease their risk of infection 

As far back as March, the majority of Brits were already performing multiple preventative measures to decrease the risk of infection with coronavirus. In comparison to the first survey, even more Brits are using hand sanitiser (59% vs. 74%) or avoiding public transport (54% vs. 60%) for example. It is no surprise that the most drastic changes can be seen in the share of Brits wearing respiratory masks as a result of the new regulations in place. In August, 69% reported wearing masks while in March only 9% did. However, Brits are now less likely to avoid certain groups of people than in March: 46% are avoiding contacting high risk groups (-4%-pt., e.g. elderly) and 25% are avoiding contacting people from badly affected regions (-4%-pt.).



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

After various 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 regarding 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 regarding supply and care (3.6/6 in March vs. 4.17/6 in August). 


Falling approval of the government’s handling of the crisis 

Governments have had to move quickly in the past few months, constantly adapting to 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 hasn't remained as stable over time. While in April, 57% of the British population rated their government’s handling of the crisis positively, that number declined in the following months. In June, only 38% of Brits rated the British government's handling of the crisis (rather) positively. In April, 15% of Brits said that coronavirus changed their opinion on Brexit - 6% now being against it and 9% now being in favour of it. 


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

“I will use the lockdown to get in great shape," you probably saw this splattered all over social media in March. The data shows that the pandemic did have a few positive effects, however it also had several negative effects on people’s health related habits in the UK. While more than half of Brits are still spending more time online, using streaming services and watching films for example, 51% are also cooking more often than before the crisis. In March, 18% said they were taking more walks than before the crises. That number rose sharply to 45% in August. On the one hand, between 36% and 39% of Brits said that, between March and August, they were working out less frequently at the gym, 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, only 9% chose this option in August. Furthermore, 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 bought 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 the pandemic. This was the case for 62% of Brits in August. At the same time, the share of Brits shopping less in stores also increased from 28% to 48%. However, the decrease in offline shopping does not always directly translate into an increase in online shopping. In August, the share of people buying more clothing offline fell by 25%-pt. (47% vs. 22%) while the share of people buying frequently online only rose by 19%-pt. (33% vs. 52%).


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

It was an immense challenge for businesses to change their processes from one day to the next at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. In June, 57% of the working population said that they work from home and in August 48% are still in the same position. It seems that employees have grown increasingly accustomed to this new situation: In April, 69% of those working from home said that they could imagine spending more time doing so 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, both 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 those returning to the UK from foreign countries with high levels of infections.  93% said that they would support mandatory coronavirus screenings and 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 behaviour insights each, focusing on topics such as general concerns, concerns about health, trustworthiness of information sources, changes in leisure activities and hobbies, grocery shopping behaviour and brand loyalty.

Download full report 


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