Consumers Eager to Return to Pre-Coronavirus Routines, Survey Shows

Nearly a third say they will visit brick-and-mortar businesses more frequently than before the pandemic
Friends vintage shopping

There is a glimmer of good news for businesses shut down because of the pandemic, as a new survey suggests consumers are so anxious to get back to their pre-coronavirus ways of living that they may frequent local establishments more often than before the outbreak.

As states grapple with when to restart their regional economies and allow nonessential businesses to open their doors, the jury is out on how much consumers will be willing to venture outside of their homes in the near future. However, a survey by MomentFeed, a mobile marketing company, gives business owners reason to be optimistic, as 32% of respondents said that once it’s safe again, they would visit their local merchants more frequently than before the coronavirus threat.

In recent weeks, regional shutdowns and social distancing efforts have led many consumers to avoid brick-and-mortar stores and fulfill as many of their needs as possible online. While essential business locations, such as grocery stores, have continued to see plenty of foot traffic, entertainment venues including movie theaters, hair salons and gyms have been closed in many parts of the country.

The MomentFeed survey, conducted in late March, found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, 82% of consumers reported visiting online businesses, with 34% saying they frequented online businesses more during the crisis than they did before. But cabin fever may have many consumers angling to get back into their favorite stores.

A return to ‘normal’ life?

Consumers appear to miss their old routines. In fact, a separate survey released this month found that most respondents thought stores should open their doors again by the end of May.

According to the MomentFeed survey, 91% of respondents said they envision themselves visiting local establishments like restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and salons once again, but only after concerns about the coronavirus subside.

And as mentioned above, almost one-third of consumers said they expect to visit local businesses even more than before the pandemic hit.

Restaurants could rebound, if they survive

The restaurant industry has been particularly impacted by the crisis. Over the course of the pandemic:

  • Dining out has dropped, with the average proportion of in-restaurant meals falling to 7%, down from 21% before the outbreak
  • The purchasing of takeout and delivery fare has also fallen, accounting for 15% of meals, versus 19% prior to the coronavirus pandemic
  • The prevalence of food cooked at home has increased to 78% of meals, up from 60%

However, if restaurant owners can keep their doors open, the survey suggests that some may see more business after the outbreak subsides than they did before the start of it. Among respondents, 39% said they planned to visit restaurants more often than they did before the COVID-19 crisis began.

Other businesses could also benefit from consumers’ desires to return to normalcy:

  • 35% of respondents said they expect to visit grocery stores more often than they did before the pandemic
  • One-third of those surveyed said they plan to visit retailers and entertainment venues, such as theaters, more frequently than they did before COVID-19

Methodology: MomentFeed surveyed 1,010 adults between March 25-26 to see how their shopping habits had changed during the COVID-19 crisis and whether they expected those changes to be long-lasting.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.