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COVID-19: Tracking the Impact on FMCG, Retail and Media
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COVID-19: Tracking the Impact on FMCG, Retail and Media

(Updated March 24, 2020)

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) sweeps the world, consumers are being forced to dramatically change their purchase behaviors. Nielsen is tracking these changes and establishing clear navigation beacons for companies trying to understand the changes and plan for what comes next.

We’ll be updating this page regularly with the latest news and insights. If you have specific questions, reach out to your Nielsen representative or contact us.

Key Consumer Behavior Thresholds

A Nielsen investigation has identified six key consumer behavior threshold levels that tie directly to concerns around the COVID-19 outbreak. The thresholds offer early signals of spending patterns, particularly for emergency pantry items and health supplies, and we are seeing these patterns being mirrored across multiple markets.

Six consumer behavior thresholds amid COVID-19 concerns

We’re monitoring these patterns closely, as they are still evolving. However, when reviewed across currently impacted countries, they can help provide a set of leading indicators for packaged goods manufacturers and retailers faced with supply issues as they race to meet record levels of demand and changing purchase habits.

Market Spotlights

Threshold levels 1-4 are beginning to show predictable signs of spending from consumers. To help markets understand what’s to come as they enter later thresholds, we’ve spotlighted several markets to showcase the key trends that have defined purchasing behaviors in the later thresholds levels as businesses look for guidance on what is likely to happen.

“As patterns begin to emerge in response to news events of this nature, it will be imperative for companies to learn from these scenarios so they can sustain growth even in times where COVID-19 has uprooted people’s lives. These patterns will help provide leading and trailing indicators to those trying to understand how people will respond as developments continue to play out at different times in different countries.”

Scott McKenzie, Nielsen’s Global Intelligence leader

Responding to Consumers’ COVID-19 Concerns

While many markets are still in the middle of this global pandemic, there are some early signs that our consumer habits will be forever changed by COVID-19. Three critical accelerators intersect with the six consumer thresholds and will fast track long-term behavioral shifts. We’ve identified a few ways businesses can prepare for shifting consumer demands as markets move through the six thresholds.

Three accelerators intersect consumer behavior thresholds

Emphasize Quality and Efficacy

Throughout the thresholds, consumers will be seeking greater assurance that the products they buy are free of risk and of the highest quality when it comes to safety standards and efficacy, particularly with respect to cleaning products, antiseptics and food items. In the short term, this intensified demand from consumers will require manufacturers, retailers and other related industry players to clearly communicate why their products and supply chains should be trusted. In the longer term, and dependent on the eventual scale and impact that COVID-19 has on consumer markets, it may speed up a re-think on how shoppers evaluate purchases and the benefits that they see as the key factors to consider.

Be Transparent About Local Origins

More than ever, shoppers want to understand the supply chain, with complete transparency from farm to factory to distribution, and they want details of the measures being taken to assure their safety. Promoting a product’s local origins could help manufacturers and retailers assuage some consumer concerns. A Nielsen survey on disloyalty last year found that global consumers report being heavily swayed by origin: 11% of global consumers said they only bought products manufactured in their country while an additional 54% “mostly” bought local products. 

Leverage Technology

With millions working from home and digital connectivity taking even more of a hold on everyday habits, consumers will have greater motivations and fewer perceived barriers to more actively seek technology-enabled solutions to assist in everyday tasks like shopping. Companies that can leverage technologies—by meeting changing consumer demands online, enabling seamless interactions through direct-to-consumer offerings and enhancing consumer experience with augmented and virtual realities—have the opportunity to earn consumer loyalty well after consumers’ concerns subside.

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