Understanding the New Normal consumer insights tracker program
We build in data from the quant survey, social insights, external trusted sources and brand examples to bring the impact of COVID-19 to life
My life is back to normal
My life is far from normal
N = 3,400 adults 18+ per month (200 per country)
New results monthly
We asked people across the world to what extent they feel their lives have returned to normal.
Click through the graph to see each country’s results.
Check this space each month to watch the progression of our tracker.
Curious about a sample of each month’s results? Look no further.
- Where some markets are opening up their economies, other markets are confronted with a second wave of COVID-19 cases. Consumers in countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia show a further increasing positive outlook towards the road back to normal. But on the other side of the spectrum, consumers in the Netherlands, Italy, UK, France and Spain are drifting further away from normalcy.
- Consumer confidence in on-premise activities continues to be fragile, and many people still have low confidence in going to a pub or bar. Even young people (ages 18-34) don’t feel confident in going out and, under these circumstances, aren’t looking forward to it. But this provides an opportunity for brands to create new consumption occasions that replace the social occasions from pre COVID-19.
- People don’t feel comfortable going out and don’t trust that others will take new coronavirus measures seriously. Brands need to continue to demonstrate in tangible ways how they help to promote hygiene, safety and social distancing. This will be especially true as we approach the holidays under these difficult circumstances.
- We notice a light positive trend in the September data of our New Normal Tracking program. Summer and outdoor living have weakened the impact of the coronavirus in countries like the US, UK, Japan and some European countries, establishing a slightly more optimistic view on the road back to normal. Remarkably, in China – which has had the highest score since our first wave in March – people feel that they are moving even closer to normal. Countries like France have experienced the downside of tourism which comes with more mobility of people, and see their score drop compared to August.
- COVID-19 has created an ongoing tension for consumers: The desire for a better me vs. a fragile me. We see consumers embracing health and wellness solutions that allow them to look after themselves and their loved ones. They value convenience to ease their stress, so anything brands can do to support them in this journey will be hugely appreciated. At the same time, consumers are in a very fragile state and there is an ongoing friction that exists as they navigate restricted living. Tiredness is rising and there is huge uncertainty, as reflected in consumers’ worries and concerns.
- Brands need to continue to look for smart and innovative ways to support consumers to clearly demonstrate that they ‘get it’. 51% of consumers are inspired by all the new ways food and drink brands are adapting to the situation. Help them celebrate some of the smaller victories.
- People sense that progress towards normality has stalled. We continue to see that the move towards the new normal is volatile, non-linear and prolonged. France is one of the countries with a positive trend towards normality, especially from the time when restrictions were lifting. The US showed some improvement in June, but consumers seem to have lost that positivity in July and August. China remains the country where people feel most close to normal.
- There is a clear shift in mindset as we enter a type of “Restricted Living 2.0” phase. We notice a growing acceptance of a long road ahead, with only 23% of people expecting a return to normal in 3 months or less (which was 49% back in April). Cautious optimism is turning into weariness, with a drop in hope and at the same time a growing number of people who feel tired. Cautious consumers look to brands less for fun, distraction and inspiration (e.g. this Heinz jigsaw puzzle) and more to seek out ways to navigate challenges and make life safer and easier.
- With normality seemingly a long way off, consumers and businesses are already preparing for a New Normal holiday season. New Normal celebration moments offer brands the opportunity to creatively re-imagine the experience (e.g. as Hershey has done for Halloween) and to help people navigate Restricted Living 2.0.
- More than 6 months since the outbreak of COVID-19, it remains clear that the road to recovery will be long. Across the world people believe that our progress towards normality has stalled, with 8 countries feeling further away from normal than they did in June.
- The situation around the world continues to be fragmented. Vietnam (where the government has been universally applauded for managing the crisis so effectively) suffered its first set-back in confidence during July. This coincided with reports of an unexpected new cluster of cases in the country. Meanwhile we are starting to see some progress in the UK (which has consistently been one of the more negative countries) as the hospitality industry re-opened from early July.
- This phase of the pandemic is defined by the Cautious Consumer, contending with fears over household finances and ongoing concerns for family health. And tensions are rising in relation to the perception that not everyone is doing their part, with 81% concerned by the behavior of others. Brands have to find ways to provide value, but can also play an important role in creatively reinforcing communal hygiene and safety messages. Now is not the time for overly celebratory communication, and brands have to strike the right emotional chord at the right moment.
- If there’s one thing we have learned since the pandemic began, it’s that it is definitely not a linear march forward. While in some markets social confinement has been lifted, we see that in other markets lockdown restrictions are still in place. Countries like Vietnam, Thailand, China, Australia and Switzerland have moved into a ‘restricted living’ situation. But other markets are still facing ‘quarantined living’ with ‘recovery living’ seeming to be far away.
- Consumers gradually sense that there is a road ahead. This is reflected in the score for the statement My life has returned to normal. The overall average for June is 65, which is an increase of 6 points since May and even 12 points since April. European countries like Italy, France and Spain show improvements of up to 18 points, building on their regained freedom and restarting economies. Saudi Arabia and Japan also demonstrate high levels of progress.
- There is a clear and growing sense that we have a very long way to go before there is a new normal. Only 35% of people are expecting things to return to normal in 3 months or less, -3 percentage points down from last month. As markets ease restrictions, discretionary activities such as domestic travel and going to the cinema become top desires. But it will take time to rebuild consumer confidence in many aspects of pre-COVID life.
- Across the world, people feel we are slowly progressing back to normality. This progress is helping people feel less negative, and joy is on the rise. The only exception here is Brazil, which is confronted with a dramatic rise in COVID-19 infections and casualties.
- At the same time, there is a growing acceptance that the return to normal will take longer than previously hoped. Only 38% (-11% from last month) expect things to return to normal in 3 months or less. Countries like US, Spain, Italy and Japan are far less optimistic than average.
- We noticed that the proportion of consumers who claim their income has decreased is on the rise globally, and they are understandably feeling more uncertain. People with reduced incomes are more likely to trade off quality for cost effectiveness. Companies are seeking ways to stay connected and keep newly frugal consumers from trading down, eg. by rolling out new, more affordable pack sizes (like Nestlé).
- China and Vietnam already feel that they are on the way back to normal. In April Vietnam had reported only 270 COVID-19 cases, with zero deaths. The findings of MetrixLab’s digital qualitative session in China also showed how people have transitioned from feelings of sadness and fear to joy, trust and love.
- Around half of people globally are optimistic and think things will return to normal within 3 months. Countries like China, Vietnam and Indonesia had optimistic scores, whereas in Japan, UK, Italy and Australia far fewer people expect to return to normal within 3 months.
- Globally there is a “we more than me” mentality. Families’ physical health and household finances are top worries, with a significant gap compared to one’s own physical health or the state of a country’s economy. Remarkably Spain, Italy and France have very strong responses on family physical health: This is very much in line with the impact of the pandemic as demonstrated by high numbers on cases and deaths.
“Thanks a lot. I found it very informative and a good mix of consumer sentiment, desires, and nods towards eCommerce and communication.”
– Global Strategic Insights Excellence Manager, Oil
“Many thanks for sending the slides over. The two webinars you delivered so far were honestly very good. Very interesting insights, mix of quant and social data is also very interesting and I really appreciated the illustrations with brands’ initiatives. The combination of all this makes it a very pleasant presentation to follow and I know that my opinion is shared by some members from our insights community. Looking forward to the next one.”
– Head of Market Research, Food Services
“It was a good webinar. Have been attending a lot of these. But I liked that the MetrixLab presentation threw in a ladder of pragmatism.”
– Global Head of Innovation, FMCG
Strategic insight and advice
What actions can brands take to help consumers navigate “the new normal” brought on by COVID-19? The situation isn’t the same in every market and it’s constantly evolving around the world. Our 12-month Understanding the New Normal consumer insight program has a finger on the pulse of consumers in 17 markets worldwide.
Running from April 2020 – March 2021, this program leverages survey data, social insights and external sources to provide a holistic perspective and key actions for brands. Our aim is to create a collaborative learning community of researchers, experts and clients.
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Participants in MetrixLab’s Understanding the New Normal program have access to monthly reports and exclusive webinars by our global team of experts.
With your input, we can evolve the program on an ongoing basis to get to the core of what brands need to know today – and simultaneously help them plan for tomorrow.
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