The coronavirus introduced the world to the idea of social distancing and life hasn't been the same since. Most Americans have made significant behavioral changes over the last month as we're all staying home and working collectively to flatten the curve.
FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults earlier this month to understand how social distancing has changed our behaviors when it comes to shopping, tipping, socializing, and celebrating the holidays.
- Grocery shopping habits have changed: 46% of Americans are shopping less frequently and they're buying more boxed and canned goods (31%) and less produce (15%) when they do shop.
- Almost half of survey respondents (49%) said they're shopping online for groceries and most are ordering directly from stores versus using third-party delivery services like Instacart or Shipt.
- Of those getting deliveries, almost half said they're tipping the same, less, or not at all despite the increased health risks for the delivery persons.
- Easter will look different this year for most: 1 in 3 said it will be less celebratory, 36% will celebrate without the family they'd normally see, and 15% said their menu will be different because of food shortages.
- Americans are shifting social activities to online: 22% of survey respondents have had a social gathering with friends online, 20% have attended a religious service online, and 17% have had a family dinner over video since social distancing began.
We've changed what we buy and how we shop for groceries
This morning a grocery delivery truck pulled up to my house and delivered several bags of food and a 12-pack of paper towels. It felt like hitting the jackpot to have actually received a grocery delivery slot and scored some paper goods.
According to our survey, I'm not alone. We found that 46% of Americans are grocery shopping less frequently, 42% report they are stocking up when they do shop, and 32% say they're buying more shelf-stable items like canned goods, while 22% are buying more paper products and cleaning supplies (when they can find them).
The one aisle of the grocery store that you might find stocked: the produce section. That's because 16% report buying less fresh produce than they did pre-pandemic
Buying groceries online
We also wanted to see how often and where people are buying groceries online now. A little over half (52%) of survey respondents said they don't buy their groceries online. For those who do, the most popular places to order online were grocery stores (23%) and big box stores like Target, Costco, and Walmart (25%). Only 8% reported using a third-party delivery service like Instacart or Shipt.
Tipping for deliveries — a mixed response
Delivery people are now on the front lines, braving grocery stores the rest of us might be trying to avoid and coming into contact with goods and people that could endanger their health. Given this, we wanted to see if tipping habits have changed because of COVID-19.
Of those who said they are getting deliveries these days, a little over half said they're tipping more — 17% said they're tipping "much more" and 34% said they're tipping "a little more." On the flip side, 34% said they haven't changed their tipping habits, 4% are tipping less, and 11% aren't tipping at all.
Easter and passover celebrations will look different, too
As families across America prepare to celebrate Easter and Passover, we wanted to understand how those celebrations will differ this year.
For those who celebrate Easter or Passover, one in three (33%) expect the holiday to be less celebratory, while 15% don't expect it to be any different.
Not surprisingly, many (36%) will not be joined by family members they'd normally celebrate with, but 20% plan to use video conferencing to still "be with family" on the holiday.
Meals, especially ones full of familiar or traditional foods, can bring us comfort in stressful times. But food shortages or difficulty finding ingredients will cause 15% of those celebrating to make changes to their normal holiday menu.
We're socializing more with family and friends online
We've seen in-person activities move online as social distancing has forced us to find new ways to connect and attempt to continue our "normal" lifestyles. "Send me a Zoom link" is the new "let's make plans."
According to our survey, social and spiritual activities have shifted online most quickly. 22% of respondents already report they have attended an online social gathering with friends and 19% said they haven't tried it yet, but would like to. Another 20% say they've already attended a church or religious service online and 17% have tried having a family dinner via video conference.
Medical appointments have also made a quick shift online with healthcare providers setting up or increasing access to telemedicine. Our survey found 18% of respondents have already had an online doctor visit and 28% more said they'd be willing to try it.
The long-term effects of social distancing
One challenge of the current crisis is that we don't know how long it's going to last and therefore it's hard to even predict the long-term effects of social distancing. How many of those who've switched to ordering groceries online will continue to do so when COVID-19 is no longer such a threat? And will we continue to have Zoom happy hours with friends when the bars reopen?
If you're struggling with adapting to social distancing, you're not alone. We're seeing rapid changes in many aspects of our lives right now and we're all finding our new normal. Here are a few resources that may help:
- If you need activities to entertain the kids: 55 Cheap or Free Things to Do With Kids
- If you're having trouble processing your emotions: That Discomfort You're Feeling is Grief
- If you want to help your community: 10 Ways to Support Small Businesses
FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults (ages 18+) on April 1, 2020 using the Pollfish platform.