COVID-19: Effects on Consumption in the UK

Anna Raventós

Zinklar real-time indicators

The coronavirus has marked a turning point in all aspects of our lives health-wise, socially, economically, etc. In this context, Zinklar, the agile market research platform, has been tracking the impact of COVID-19 on the population and their consumption habits for over 2 months, to obtain covid consumer insights and help brands to understand their consumers. This tracking was carried out in the United Kingdom, Spain, and Mexico, and was launched daily at the beginning, which later turned weekly, from April 1st to June 2nd.

Each study was launched through the Zinklar platform and using the unique mobile-only methodology (which means that respondents answered exclusively through their mobile phones). Each wave was sent to a national representative sample of 200 respondents. In total, in the UK, we carried out 3,400 interviews.

Each wave is analyzed by our research experts, who have extracted a key insight per day that reflects a change in consumption.

food consumption habits

In order to track changes in the population’s sentiment and consumption habits, we have developed our own indexes. They allow us to see the phases in which consumers believe they are and in what situation they are in relation to COVID-19. See the consumer insights regarding COVID-19 below:

Situation Index

Indicates the point on the curve where the population believes that we are every day. Situation point between 0 (initial phase) and 10 (end of the pandemic).

Consumer Insights covid

Confidence Index

Indicates the percentage of people who believe the situation will improve from now on (in green), and those who believe the situation will worsen (in red).

Consumer Insights covid

Normality Period

Indicates when the population believes that we will return to normality (situation before the pandemic), expressed in months.

Consumer Insights covid

Weekly Insights

Regarding the data selection, although we have made daily waves during the first days of confinement in the UK, we have decided to only focus on the long weekly waves as they show the changes in habits more clearly. See the weekly consumer insights regarding COVID-19 below:

April 2nd: UK retailers are adapting to the situation quickly.

At the beginning of the pandemic, brands were given more visibility because of the actions they did to engage in their communities. Such were the cases of Tesco and Asda which are seen as the TOP brands having an impact on communities during those uncertain times (respectively 27% and 14% of spontaneous mentions), following communications in the last few days.


Consumer Insights covid
April 6th: Are we starting to see green shoots?

As the situation continued to evolve and people got ready for harsh changes, they also were fairly confident in their preparations. That might be why there was a slight drop in consumers expecting the crisis to get worse, going from 7 in 10 in the last week to 6 in 10 the day before. And a quarter then believed the situation was going to stabilize.

Consumer Insights covid
As mentioned above, people were feeling fairly confident and started already believing that the first half of the crisis had already passed, as the Situation Index reflected a 5.2.

Consumer Insights covid
April 14th: More streaming and e-commerce, less perfume

One of the most evident consequences of the COVID-19 crisis is the need to stay indoors for long amounts of time. As a result, industries that fitted the indoor lifestyle experienced an increase in activity: both streaming services (56% doing this more than before vs 48% last week) and shopping via e-commerce (27% vs 20%) have increased. On the other hand, industries more associated with social situations were affected negatively, as over a third of consumers wore less perfume than before.

Consumer Insights covid

Our Confidence Index indicated how even though a large majority of the population started out believing the situation would worsen, those numbers started to gradually reduce while the percentage of the population who were more optimistic steadily increased to almost double in just two weeks.

Consumer Insights covid
April 21st: Some sectors booming and benefiting from the lockdown

Different industries and categories sometimes benefited from the crisis. For example, 66% of the UK population intended to order home food delivery at this date, a significant jump from 50% claiming the same at the start of the month.

Consumer Insights covid
Curiously, the percentage of the population who believed the crisis would take 5 months or longer to return to normal bumped up back to 44% as it was at the beginning of April, despite having decreased in the last two weeks.

Consumer Insights covid
April 27th: Consumers seem to be adapting to the “new normal”

After nearly a month of living in confinement, the sense of normality had changed and people were slowly relaxing and returning to their habits before March. Over half of the UK population who were not planning on spending any money on Clothes or Beauty products at the start of the crisis were expecting to spend in these categories during these times. This suggested consumers were adapting to the “new normal”.

Consumer Insights covid

The fact people slowly were getting used to the “new normal” lifestyle gradually increased the population’s optimism, as the percentage of those who believed the situation would improve continued to steadily increase up to 37% while pessimistic feelings continued to reduce week to week.

Consumer Insights covid
May 5th: A third of the UK population has started to buy brands they don’t usually buy

Consumers were looking for new options when buying at supermarkets, as we see that supermarket-owned brands benefited from the situation the most, receiving the highest number of spontaneous mentions.

Consumer Insights covid

Gradually, the percentage of people who expected the process of getting back to normal would take over 5 months slowly continued to increase, reaching over half of the respondents.

Consumer Insights covid
May 12th: Price sensitivity is returning

Although a portion of the population had been claiming for a few weeks that price wasn’t so important anymore, we saw that fewer people than ever were reporting paying little attention to price: 2/5 consumers at the start of April vs 1/5 this week.

Consumer Insights covid
This week reported the lowest value to that date in the Situation Index, dropping to 5.3 after having reached almost 6 just three weeks previous. Notable, though, the values continued to be over 5.Consumer Insights covid

May 19th: A massive drop in optimism

After the relatively high optimism rate during the past months, we saw a big drop in optimism as the number of Coronavirus cases continued to grow. The proportion of people thinking things would get worse in the future jumped significantly from 13% to 26%.

Consumer Insights covid
Although optimism is reducing, the population still believes the situation is still evolving as the Situation Index continued to increase from 5.3 to 5.6.Consumer Insights covid

May 26th: Consumers seem to be out of “panic mode”

Finally, after weeks of changed daily habits, consumers seemed to be out of “panic mode” and following routines again. 70% hadn’t started buying brands they didn’t usually buy, the highest number seen (in early April it was 53%). Also, they were paying attention to price again, after weeks of being less price sensitive.

Consumer Insights covid

The fact people slowly were getting used to the “new normal” lifestyle gradually increased the population’s optimism, as 43% expected the situation to evolve positively in contrast to the 68% who expected it to worsen at the beginning of the tracking.

Consumer Insights covid

June 2nd: Value for money rather than price only

While Price used to be the main driver of purchase in the previous weeks, Value for money turned the most important value this week, ranking first by 3 in every 10 consumers. This was the highest since the start of the COVID-19 tracking.

Consumer Insights covid

As the pandemic continues, the amount of the population which believes normality will take 5 months or longer seems to have stabilized at 60%, as the last weeks seem to have remained near that number.

Consumer Insights covid

Consumer Insights COVID-19 Bonus Track

We can interpret how the population changes during a pandemic through the food purchases changes. Here are some additional consumer insights regarding COVID-19 and behavioral changes we’ve detected:

  • Key drivers of purchase: COVID has greatly changed some choices consumers make regarding purchases. While the importance in price before and after coronavirus has modified little (27% marked it as their main reason before the crisis, while 28% have said the same after COVID-19), the Value of money changed a lot more (30% said the main reason before COVID-19, while 17% said the same after) as well as regarding Impact on the environment (3% before, 12% after).
  • Travel expense forecast: Probably one of the industries which have received the largest impact has been travel: before coronavirus, 62% of UK respondents estimated less than £100 in travel, 29% between £100 and £400, and 8% over £400. By April 27th, 93% estimated an expense of less than £100, 7% between £100 and £400, and just 1% over £400.
  • Purchase habits: Another major change has been the amounts people purchase, especially when it comes to food. During confinement, we asked consumers about the number of products they bought with the following results: 20% said they bought fewer sweet treats than usual (this mirrors the behavior of their Mexican counterparts) while 36% declared to have purchased more quantity of bread than usual.


As we mentioned earlier, this is only part of the information that Zinklar has collected. You can visit our landing page and see all the insights and indexes week by week in one place.

However, it is important to keep in mind that these data points only offer an overview, which is why we believe it is necessary to highlight the value of launching studies applied to the needs of each brand and category. If you decide you wish to do it, we want to help you. Contact us and we will help you through the process, step by step, so you can obtain insights into your category that allow you to adapt your strategies during this unprecedented situation.

contact zinklar

Receive regular updates from Zinklar!

Artículos relacionados