Heading into the fall season, there is a renewed sense of caution as coronavirus cases soar in parts of the world. While the uncertainty from COVID-19 persists throughout the globe, its impact is felt differently across countries. As a result, there is significant variance in how consumers respond to the crisis and adapt to the next normal.While these themes hold true across the 45 countries we have tracked through the crisis (see sidebar, “About our surveys”), the following exhibits focus on a subset of 13 core countries, selected because of their economic significance and the impact that COVID-19 has had on their populations.
1. Shift to Value and Essentials
Consumer sentiment varies greatly across countries impacted by COVID-19. Consumers in China, India, and Indonesia consistently report higher optimism than the rest of the world, while those in Europe and Japan remain less optimistic about their countries’ economic conditions after COVID-19. Except for Italy, optimism has declined throughout European countries, in line with the rise in confirmed cases since late July.
Divergent sentiment is also reflected in spending intent across categories. In most countries, consumers intend to continue shifting their spending to essentials, while cutting back on most discretionary categories. However, in China and India, spending is bouncing back beyond grocery and household supplies. Chinese consumers plan to increase spending on discretionary categories such as travel and apparel, suggesting that the country is further along the path to recovery than other countries. In India, consumers report a higher intent to spend across categories as they prepare for upcoming festivals (Diwali, for example) and the wedding season, which runs from October to December.
Consumers across the globe have responded to the crisis and its associated disruption to normal consumer behaviours by trying different shopping behaviours and expressing a high intent (65 percent or more) to incorporate these behaviours going forward. However, the change has been less pronounced in countries with a moderate degree of economic shock, such as Germany and Japan.
Given consumers’ price sensitivity, value remains the primary reason for consumers to try new brands as well as new places to shop. Aside from value, convenience and availability are most often cited as top drivers of consumers’ decisions about where to shop, while quality and purpose (desire to support local businesses, for example) are the more important considerations when choosing new brands.