Amid Social Distancing, Families Look for New Experiences At Home

March 23rd

This is the first in a series of weekly surveys that Ripple Street Research is conducting in the coming months. We hope these real-time consumer insights will help our brand and agency clients navigate these unprecedented times and better inform their strategic marketing programs going forward.

Key takeaways from Ripple Street Research’s first March 2020 Consumer COVID-19 survey:

  • People are reducing their grocery store trips, with only 21% going more than 2 times a week, down from 51% a year ago.
  • Men were 50% more likely than women to say they do not want to change their social behavior due to COVID-19

Americans are adjusting to an idea of the “new normal” as they adopt social distancing nationwide. One out of every four people in the country is advised to stay home to help slow the transmission of the coronavirus, with more states adopting similar measures every day.

Consumers are staying home,  and they are spending that time in expected ways: spending more time streaming and watching daytime TV, more time watching children’s programming, and idling on social media sharing memes.

But with no idea of when things will return to normal, it seems obvious that Americans will eventually feel bored and look for new ways to keep occupied during their extended stays at home. There’s opportunity for brands here to put their products into the hands of families, especially as these families look to cut down on trips to grocery stores and other retail outlets.

Staying home and not shopping

As Americans adopt social distancing, one of the biggest shifts in behavior is less time spent visiting stores. In a recent survey conducted by Ripple Street Research, more than half of respondents said that last year, they were visiting grocery stores two or more times a week (51%), and another 31% reported going once a week. Now, those shoppers are reducing their trips, with only 21% saying they plan to go two or more times a week in the next three months. More plan on going once a week (36%), while the number who plan to go just a few times a month nearly doubled (13% in 2019, to 25% now).

 

Big box stores will see less foot traffic as well. Respondents were frequent visitors to Target, Walmart and other big box stores last year, with 56% saying they went once a week or more often. In the time of coronavirus, that shrinks drastically, down to 32%. Pet stores are also among the least likely to see consumer visits, with 73% of respondents saying they would now visit less than once per month.

A desire to interact

While the respondents were clearly changing their shopping patterns, many still indicated a desire to keep up social activity. Men were 50% more likely than women to not change their social habits during the pandemic, indicating some stubbornness, and perhaps a desire to be entertained at home.

Meanwhile, 53% of respondents said they would feel comfortable having friends and family over to try new products, in gatherings of 10 people or less. With many local governments urging people not to have gatherings at all, this isn’t a good route for brands to pursue, but the takeaway is that many people are looking for entertainment.

That enjoyment is coming in many different ways: New York Times readers say they’re doing everything from watching opera streams to ink drawing. Toys and dance parties are among the commonly recommended activities for families with children. And if you want to connect with friends and family who are far away, remote game nights remain an option.

The family night opportunity

The survey results, along with widespread sharing of game and activity recommendations, make it clear that people are staying in, but yearning for activity and connection. Brands can step into this void and help families connect and keep their spirits up in these trying times.

By building family night experiences, where households share branded products and entertainment with the people already at home, brands can spark creativity, inspire families to interact and spend time together, all while building long term bonds with the brand. With increased activity on social media, it’s possible for brands to turn families into instant-advocates, potentially using their creativity to help share their brand experience with their friends and followers.

People are hungry to find new activities right now, so whether it’s a board game maker, a CPG brand, or a toy seller, there is an opportunity to help families break up the monotony of being stuck at home. Pet brands can put their products into homes of pet owners looking for new ways to entertain their furry friends. Rather than try to drive brands to stores, brands can find ways to enter these homes with customized family night packages, ensuring that they’ll bring a smile to the family’s faces, and help create moments that matter during an anxious time.

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