How is the Coronavirus affecting consumer behaviour?

How are consumers changing their behaviour in the wake of the Coronavirus? We surveyed 1,000 UK residents on everything from their anxiety levels to their commuting behaviours.

It’s likely that over the last month the Coronavirus has crept into the majority of conversations you’ve had. Thanks in part to the media, talk of the COVID-19 virus has swept the globe – there’s talk of quarantines, self-isolation, and the steadily climbing numbers of those who’ve caught the virus. All of that public awareness means people are actively changing their behaviours to avoid catching and spreading the Coronavirus, which can be dangerous for those who are already vulnerable to illness, and unpleasant for those in good health. You need only look at the Google results of a simple search for ‘Coronavirus’ to understand the level of reporting (and panic) the virus is receiving: 

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How worried are UK consumers about the Coronavirus, and how are they changing their behaviours in its wake? We surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 UK consumers to get an idea of how awareness of the virus is affecting their day-to-day. These are the results: 

How aware of the Coronavirus is the British public? 

In general, UK residents are aware of the presence of the Coronavirus. Over 75% of respondents said they were ‘very aware’ of it, and only 2% said they were completely unaware of it. 

How aware are you of the Coronavirus/COVID-19?

How concerned by the Coronavirus are the British public, generally?

When it comes to the continued presence of the virus, respondents were somewhere in between catastrophizing and turning a blind eye. The majority (48.1%) said the worst of the virus is yet to come. 33% said they’re expecting a full-blown global pandemic, and 18.2% said they think it’ll all be over soon. 

How bad do you think the Coronavirus situation will get?

Anxiety levels are on the rise since the Coronavirus broke out. More than half of respondents (53.1%) said their anxiety levels are ‘higher’ or ‘much higher’ since the outbreak – and only 3.2% said they’re less anxious now than before they heard about the virus. 

How would you describe your anxiety levels now, compared with before the Coronavirus outbreak? 

How is media reporting affecting anxiety levels around the Coronavirus?

People are being exposed to news about the Coronavirus a lot, whether that’s intentionally (i.e. through watching the news) or unintentionally (i.e. through social media). A staggering 53.4% of respondents said they are exposed to news about the Coronavirus several times a day, 20.7% said one or two times a day, and 18.9% said they hear updates on the virus hourly. 

With what frequency are you exposed to news about the Coronavirus? 

Interestingly, there’s a correlation between seeing news about the virus more often and higher levels of anxiety – 48.1% of those who hear news hourly think we’re headed for a full-blown global pandemic, compared to 33% of the full sample. The same people were more likely to report that their anxiety levels are ‘much higher’ than before the virus broke out (33.9% compared to 17.3% of the full sample). 

What are people most worried about when it comes to the Coronavirus? 

In general, people seem to be more worried about the vulnerable people around them catching the virus than they are about themselves catching it. 39.2% of respondents said they were ‘very worried’ about their parents or grandparents catching the Coronavirus, and 29.3% said they were ‘very worried’ about their children or grandchildren catching it. 30.2% of people reporting that they are ‘very worried’ about the economy being affected. 

UK residents are least worried about school and work closures – 27.8% of people said they were ‘unworried’ or ‘very unworried’ about school closures, and 23.1% said the same about work closures. 

To what extent are you worried or unworried about the following:

How is the Coronavirus affecting consumer behaviour?

Changing habits or shopping patterns:

The British public have made some pronounced changes to their behaviours in an effort to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. 80.7% of respondents said they have started washing their hands more, 19.2% have started stockpiling food or other resources in case of shortages, and 12.6% are now actively choosing to shop online rather than go to a store. Only 4% of respondents said they’d made no change to their behaviour in the wake of the virus. 

Have you done any of the following things in response to the Coronavirus? 

When it comes to stockpiling specifically, the products Brits are stocking up on the most are soap (34.9%), cleaning products (22.4%), and toilet roll (21.8%). 

Have you stocked up on any of the following in response to the Coronavirus?

Changing plans and commuting patterns:  

The majority of UK residents haven’t changed their day-to-day plans and participation in events since the outbreak of the Coronavirus (48.5%). However, quite a few people have, with 23.6% reporting that they’ve changed their travel or holiday plans and 19.7% reporting that they’ve changed their social plans. 13.2% have even changed the way they commute to avoid extended contact with others. 

Have you changed, cancelled, or postponed any of the following in response to the Coronavirus?

Avoiding certain places: 

When it comes to avoiding the Coronavirus, people are steering clear of certain places more than others. Public transport is the biggest offender here, with 27% reporting that they’re actively avoiding using public transport or going to train stations and airports. Public attractions are avoided by 26% of respondents, and the same goes for the cinema, theatre, and concerts (19.4%) – all places with a lot of people crammed into one room.

Are you actively avoiding any of the following places to reduce your risk of contracting Coronavirus? 

Changing travel plans: 

It’s winter. We’re all dreaming of a holiday. But the Coronavirus may throw a spanner into the works for many UK travellers, with heavier border checks, cancelled flights, and risk of quarantines. Despite all of that, most of the Brits who have future travel plans aren’t intending to change them – 21.8% of respondents are going ahead with their travel plans. For those who haven’t made any plans yet, there’s a bit more hesitance to book than there might usually be – 21% of people are holding off on making plans due to uncertainty. 

What impact is the Coronavirus situation having on your future travel plans?

Working from home: 

Working from home when you feel unwell is a great way to stop the spread of viruses to coworkers and your unwitting fellow commuters. With the outbreak of Coronavirus, stocks of video communication platform Zoom have seen a 75% increase – a good indication that people are opting to stay in. Despite this, many employers still haven’t cottoned on to the benefits – 32.8% of respondents said their employer ‘never’ lets them work from home, despite the fact that they can do some or all of their work remotely. With new social distancing measures coming into effect across the globe, this is changing rapidly. Check out the full blog on remote-working during the Coronavirus pandemic for in-depth data on working-from-home habits.

How often does your employer allow you to work from home?

Interested in the full results of the survey? You can find them here.

The Coronavirus situation is changing rapidly. To keep up with all of the latest data from Attest and beyond, subscribe to our weekly Coronavirus Digest – all of the latest results on how consumer behaviour is changing, straight to your inbox.

The Coronavirus digest – weekly newsletter

We’re regularly tracking the impact of Covid-19 on consumer sentiment & behaviour. We’re also a curious bunch, corralling business-critical Covid-19 content from across the internet. Sign up to get all of this (and more) straight to your inbox!

Subscribe to the digest


Content Team 

Our in-house marketing team is always scouring the market for the next big thing. This piece has been lovingly crafted by one of our team members. Attest's platform makes gathering consumer data as simple and actionable as possible.

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