Dunnhumby has released findings from a year-long worldwide study of the impact of COVID-19 on customer attitudes and behavior across 22 countries. The seventh wave of the dunnhumby Consumer Pulse Survey found that Americans, for the first time since the pandemic began, are beginning to feel noticeably better about personal finances and are now prioritizing value over speed when they shop.
The latest wave found that 58 percent of U.S. consumers reported that the country’s economy is weak, a sharp drop of 17 percent from last March when 75 percent reported the economy was weak. The dunnhumby study also found that 39 percent of consumers reported that their finances were poor, a drop of 15 percent from just November when 54 percent reported their finances were in bad shape.
Americans are now at the lowest level of worry about the virus (23 percent) since the crisis began and have dropped nine percentage points since November on the dunnhumby Worry Index.
Even though U.S. consumers’ confidence is beginning to rebound, consumers remain concerned with the cost of food, with 43 percent saying they are paying more than they did before the pandemic. In contrast, just 24 percent reported they are paying less for food. As a result, 80 percent are taking at least one action to seek value with the most popular action being to shop at stores with everyday low prices (52 percent).
Consumers’ return to value seeking aligns with the dunnhumby 2021 Grocery Retailer Preference Index which postulated that the importance of value would return once consumers worry about the virus dissipated.
“While this wave marks the first time since the pandemic struck that consumers are feeling better financially, we are also seeing value seeking driving shopping behavior,” said Grant Steadman, president for North America at dunnhumby. “It’s noteworthy that consumers are now prioritizing value instead of speed, which was their key driver for much of 2020.”
Dunnhumby survey respondents’ rebounding confidence aligns with the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey which increased more than 8 percent in March to its highest level in a year but still 7 percent below where it stood pre-pandemic. And survey respondents’ concerns with the higher cost of food also aligns with Consumer Price Index Summary which reported that “food at home index increased 3.5 percent over the past 12 months.”
Key findings from the dunnhumby study:
- Value seeking consumers (70 percent) far outstrip quality seeking consumers (13 percent) in the U.S.
- Consumers are utilizing multiple shopping tactics to seek value in the face of rising prices.
- Online is now a fully adopted behavior and has grown stronger in every wave.
- Consumer satisfaction with shopping online has been ahead of, or equal to shopping in store since September 2020.
- The pandemic driven changes in shopping behavior are stabilizing.
- Walmart continues to dominate all stores when it comes to value.
Earlier this year, the company released the fourth annual Dunnhumby Retailer Preference Index (RPI), a nationwide study that examines the approximately $1 trillion U.S. grocery market. See story, here.