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The Nine Things We Know For Sure About The Post-Pandemic Consumer

There’s no shortage of pain points to catalog from the past six months: A global pandemic, worldwide economic disruption, record-breaking unemployment, an invasion by murder hornets — the hits never seem to stop. But the running theme through all of the frustration that 2020 has created is uncertainty and the feeling that one never quite knows what’s going to happen next. That means being adequately prepared for things feels impossible.

While PYMNTS has yet to perfect our proprietary crystal-ball technology, we’ve been surveying thousands of U.S. consumers across demographics and geographies for months about how their lives have changed (or not) since the pandemic began. And we’ve asked them how they envision what their lives as consumers will be when the pandemic is over.

As it turns out, there’s quite a bit we already know today about who consumers will be tomorrow — and what they’ll be looking for next. Here are nine key takeaways from our surveys:

9. Getting Back To Normal Is Going To Require A Vaccine 

Consumers are mostly waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine before they get back to normal, according to PYMNTS/PayPal’s recently released survey data.

Some 38 percent report the primary thing they’ll need to see to get back to normal will be a vaccine’s wide availability. That compares with only 6 percent who said that an easing of government restrictions would be their primary cue to resume their old habits:

Table Description automatically generated 8. Digital Services Drive Commerce Decisions 

Consumers aren’t merely shopping more digitally, but are choosing where they’ll shop based on the digital offering available to them, PYMNTS’ early fall survey found.

One-third of U.S. consumers (some 70 million Americans in total) report that they’re “very” or “extremely” likely to select a merchant based on the availability of suitable digital, touchless offerings. And that number swells to more than two-thirds (69 percent) when adding those who said they were “somewhat “likely to do so:  Chart, bar chart Description automatically generated

7. Americans Are In This For The Long Haul 

PYMNTS’ consumer studies early on in the pandemic showed that Americans originally thought COVID-19 was going to be a relatively short experience. As of March, they expected on average that the crisis would last about five months (or until about August).

But as of September, that estimate had grown to 11 more months before things return to some version of normal. That takes things out to 2021’s second half:


6. Going Out Shopping Might Become A Thing Of The Past 

Going shopping as a dedicated activity is something consumers seem less and less likely to get back to doing, according to PYMNTS and Visa’s recently released How We Will Pay Study.

Many consumers are increasingly shopping using voice assistants while doing other activities. For example, consumers made 14 percent of voice-assisted purchases while doing the dishes, 12 percent while cleaning the house, 12 percent while watching TV and 11 percent while cooking meals.

Overall, the share of consumers making voice-activated purchases has risen to 13.8 percent from just 9.7 percent as recently as 2018:

5. Consumers Seriously Worry About Infecting Others (But Not Themselves)

Consumers are concerned with their health and have been since U.S. lockdowns first started up last spring, according to our initial consumer surveys.

However, that fear has consistently been more about fears of hurting other people’s health than their own. Some 71.1 percent of respondents reported early in the pandemic that they were worried about making their family or friends sick vs. 42.4 percent who expressed concerns they themselves might die.

And though those levels have shifted as time has passed (and vary based on demographic), fear of making others ill has consistently remained consumers’ leading concern: