Much can be deciphered when qualitative variables like consumer behavior are given some quantitative value. Surveys and preliminary research on consumer sentiments, concerns and changing behavior globally as well as locally have shown how humans have adapted or reacted to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
A common theme in most of these surveys and studies is the increasing concerns over the impact of COVID-19 on health and finance; and the increased digital adoption. COVID-19 has fundamentally changed how people live. Economies in the midst of the health crisis are already facing recessionary pressures, which will fuel layoffs, unemployment and wage cuts. However, new spending patterns and changes to consumer behavior are also heralding digitization as part of the new normal.
Joint survey carried out by Gallup Pakistan and Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) Pakistan is a recent attempt at identifying the changing sentiments and changing priorities. The survey incorporates views of 1291 residents between June 4-16, 2020.
The anxiety is setting in. Compared to previous independent surveys, this latest one shows increased concerns about the spread of the virus – as much as 80 percent of the total respondents. Almost all of the respondents – 94 percent to be specific – are concerned about securing their family’s health. At the same time, financial worries are mounting; over 90 percent are worried about managing personal finances amid job losses and rising unemployment, and around 87 percent see a significant impact on saving. But there are other concerns as well like reduced spending power and making ends meet.
Probably, the most important indicator to gauge the economic destruction of COVID-19 is the unemployment. the survey shows that only 26 percent of the respondents of the survey have not been affected by the pandemic – the rest 74 percent of the respondents were either laid off, given salary cuts or were asked to take forced leaves.
Consumption and spending patterns like the rise of ecommerce have also been discussed in this space. The survey puts forth spending on medicine, laundry and household cleaning items as the only segments to witness growth in June 2020; Consumer expenditure on almost all other segments has been severely dented with a net negative impact. And while the digital adoption has been lauded by many, the survey shows that citizens have been hesitant to use digital payment options; only 15 percent consumers have used digital payments for the first time, and over 80 percent are still not using online mediums to order, learn or communicate.
However, Pakistanis are generally considered optimistic - the country’s rank on the UN Happiness Index is higher than its peers in South Asia, and even some European countries. This can also be seen in the survey where only 1 in 4 persons are pessimistic and envisage a lasting impact on the economy despite the minimal economic activity in the country, and a good 41 percent respondents - mostly the youth- expect situation to normalize within the next six months and believe Pakistan will manage to sail through this crisis.