Every day – several times a day – people ask us how the economic recovery will happen. Who’s going to recover fastest? Slowest? Who might not recover at all?
Typically, we don’t do sweeping predictions or prognostications, especially during times like these. Too much can change that we can’t predict. What if there’s a second wave of the virus? Or a war? Or, better yet, a miracle cure?
But I will make one fail-safe guarantee about the future: Consumers will have much more to say about our economic recovery than any government official will. Take that to the bank.
We will shop again. We will eat at restaurants. We will even go to sporting events. As soon as our desire for normalcy outweighs our fears. And, like it or not, different people will do that calculus in different ways at different times.
And nothing will be a more powerful force behind those differences than the political tribalism gripping our nation right now. Take a quick gander at this:
We don’t live in one America today, that’s for sure. But we don’t really live in 50 states or 210 metro areas either. The internet and social media changed all that.
Today’s America is like a giant carton of Neapolitan ice cream. There are two vivid, highly contrasted flavors on the sides and a big band of vanilla in the middle. Three Americas, visible in virtually every dimension of our society. And each of them will move forward in their own way, on their own timeline.
You’d think it would be easy for marketers to divide the nation – and recovery – into three simple parts. But no.
The problem with Neapolitan ice cream is that the flavors and colors quickly melt together when you scoop it out of the carton. It becomes impossible to isolate the chocolate from the strawberry from the vanilla. It melts across state lines, across communities.
The extraordinary challenge for marketers is that our economic recovery will happen like that too. Brands and categories aligned with different tribes will experience a different recovery. Rest assured that Lowe’s will see a different curve than Home Depot. Dickies and Carhartt, a different curve than REI. Cracker Barrel, different than Red Lobster.
But if you’re looking for an easy answer, a clean little map of the U.S., I don’t have one. You need to understand consumers – and their tribes – by the minute. And that’s hard.
You just better hurry before it all melts.
Here’s what we’re seeing this week:
Consumer confidence bounced a little. Economic sentiment probably hit a floor last week and people are starting to accept the consequences. Now they’re thinking about the future and feel like there’s nowhere to go but up. I hope they’re right. It definitely feels like we’re catching a faint glimpse of a light at the end of the tunnel.
And that’s good because everyone needs a big emotional boost. It’s no surprise that the coronavirus crisis has dampened almost everyone’s overall mood. Anxiety and worry are way up, happiness is way down. But this study and the chart below capture just how bad it has been. We need to pay attention to the mental health implications of this episode because the stress – and post-traumatic stress – will be with us for a long time.
People aren’t drinking as much wine during quarantine as I thought and by “people” I mean everyone but me apparently. I committed to giving up alcohol during the week while on lockdown and I don’t think I’ve made it past Tuesday yet. But by and large, Americans aren’t drinking much differently than they did before the crisis. The lone exception is the brown-liquor crew – the whiskey and bourbon drinkers. They’ve really upped their game. Wine and beer consumption appears to be steady, if not slightly down, perhaps because the bars and restaurants are closed. Or – like in Pennsylvania – the liquor stores.
Women are being much smarter about this whole social distancing thing. There’s a ton of interesting stuff in this study about how often people are leaving their homes during quarantine. The largest group, 42%, leave home only once each week (not including people leaving the house for work). Thirty-two percent are venturing out three times/week or more and they are way, way more likely to be men. By the way, this gender difference will have a big impact on the post-lockdown recovery too.
Zoom is killing it, but FaceTime is still king of the virtual hill. We published new data this week on the various video platforms people are using to “hang out” with family and friends during quarantine. Incidentally, Gen Xers are the most likely of all age groups to be using these platforms for “virtual happy hours” because of course we are. Anyway, it’s hard to think of any company that had a coming out during lockdown like Zoom. Take a bow.
Only 11% of Americans say their homes are messier than usual and I’m definitely in that group. Somehow, 3 times that number say their home is cleaner than usual during the crisis and I can’t figure out how that’s possible. Between the fact that we have two teenagers and two busy working adults shuffling around all day and we can’t let a cleaning service in the house, I don’t know how we’re supposed to keep up. Oh well, at least we disinfect our groceries when we bring them home. More about our cleaning habits in this pretty little infographic.
Speaking of groceries, online ordering seems to be slowly getting its shit together. Nearly one in three U.S. adults at least tried to order groceries online this past week, up from 23% just a few weeks ago. And while 1 in 4 people tried and failed, which is still a huge number, the percentage of successful online orders is certainly on the rise. This is one of the trends I’m most fascinated to watch as we head out of mandatory lockdown (eventually).
We published a bunch of other studies this week which you’ll just have to read for yourself:
- People are clamoring for a Tiger King spinoff;
- Facebook users and TikTok users have very different takes on the pandemic;
- The importance of skincare has fallen off the face of the Earth, well not really but I couldn’t resist the wordplay, but it is definitely down during the crisis;
- A growing percentage of Americans would prefer to vote online in November;
- As economic worries continue, people are shying away from major purchases;
- Apple and Google started tracing the coronavirus through our phones and people are pretty skittish about the privacy implications;
- Last but not least, our relationship with food is changing during the pandemic and I can’t believe I never saw this correlation in our data before because it’s totally me;
And here my dear friends are our most popular questions this week:
- Do you know how to drive a ‘stick-shift’ / manual transmission car?
- How many TVs do you have in your home?
- Bespectacled folks: Are you living life in a fog right now while also wearing a mask?
- Have you ever had a conflict with a close friend’s romantic partner / spouse that you felt unable to bring up with your friend?
- Do you sanitize your groceries?
- Of the following drinks, which is your favorite brunch cocktail?
Hoping you’re well.