Nielsen released the findings of its latest Nielsen Audio Consumer Sentiment survey, an ongoing study series addressing current American sentiment around COVID-19. The sixth study in the series was conducted June 22 -25, 2021 and reflects responses from 1,000 respondents across the U.S. The study includes insights about activities consumers engage in, including health, schooling, employment, and transportation during the pandemic as well as new data about vaccines, and people’s purchasing habits.
According to the Nielsen Audio Consumer Sentiment survey, consumers eighteen and older now show high optimism as the COVID crisis abates. The survey looked at three segments reflecting attitudes about the pandemic: People who are “Ready To Go,” those who “Proceed With Caution,” and consumers who “Wait And See” when it comes to resuming normal activities. In April of last year, during the peak of the lock-down, consumers were roughly equally divided among these groups. Now in June 2021, the Ready To Go segment reached a new high of 90%, of American consumers reflecting rising optimism.
There were big gains in each of key indicators on consumer attitudes about COVID-19 in the latest study. For example, in June 2021 nearly all (95%) say people are starting to resume more normal activities. Ninety percent or more say their town is emerging from the crisis, stores that were closed are beginning to open again and they will resume normal activities. There was a 21 percentage point gain in those who say it is safer than it was a month ago jumping from 64% in March 2021 to 85% in June 2021. There was a 59 point jump in those who say things feel more normal now in June 2021 (84%) compared with April 2020 (25%). Nearly twice as many say they will resume most normal activities in June 2021 (81%) compared with April 2020 (42%). In addition, more than two thirds (68%) say they are less concerned about the virus.
The study showed that 26% of consumers are spending more than an hour in their vehicles in June 2021 compared with 14% in April 2020. Heavy radio listeners are far more likely to spend more than an hour in their vehicle (40%) compared with total consumers (26%).
“With easing restrictions, America is getting out on the open road and time spent in vehicles continues to climb,” said Brad Kelly, Managing Director, Nielsen Audio. “More road trips, commuting to work, visits to family and friends and trips to stores means more listening to broadcast radio and an opportunity for advertisers to capitalize on America’s increasing consumer confidence as we emerge from the pandemic.”
Among the other findings from the study:
- Two thirds of consumers have gotten the vaccine or plan to get it. Uncertainty with regard to vaccines in June 2021 is now half (13%) of what it was in March (26%) 2021.
- Among those who have gotten the vaccine or plan to get it, 73% expect to resume MOST normal activities and 72% say they expect to resume ALL normal activities.
- With fewer restrictions and the rollout of the vaccines, half (48%) of consumers anticipate an improved economy in the months ahead, which is two thirds greater than the 29% who say it will remain unchanged and twice as many as those who expect it to get worse (23%). Consumer expectation about the economy often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, which bodes well for the recovery.
- Two thirds of employed (67%) people now work outside the home vs. four in ten (39%) in April 2020. This is a leading indicator of audience growth, since consumers spend more time with radio when they travel in vehicles to get to work.
- Public Transportation
- Each of our segments (Ready to Go, Proceed with Caution and Wait and See) say that their use of public transportation has decreased much more so than those who say it’s increased due to COVID-19. More than a third of the most conservative group (Wait and See) say their use of public transit has decreased compared with 6% who say it’s increased since the pandemic. Even among the most optimistic Ready to Go group, 25% say they use public transit less compared with only 5% who say it has increased. Since people still need to get places, decreased use of public transportation means more time in vehicles.
- In October 2020, when we first asked questions about how children attend classes, there were more children attending virtual only classes than those who attended in-person. In June 2021, that pattern reversed itself. Now 38% of kids attend in-person classes compared with 14% who go to virtual only classes.
- In October 2020, nearly as many kids were getting to school on a bus as those who were getting rides from a family member or in a carpool. This changed significantly in June 2021, with twice as many kids driven to school (65%) versus those who took the bus (32%).
- With more kids attending class in person and more getting to school in vehicles, there are more opportunities to listen to radio on the way to school. Nearly nine in ten consumers that the radio is sometimes or always on during the drive to school.
How Local Shopping Has Changed
- We asked consumers how they get the things they purchase, both now and before the pandemic. In a good sign for retail, in June 2021, 82% say they shopped in-store which is a ten point gain since March 2020. However, online shopping has become a bigger factor in consumer’s lives than it was prior to the pandemic, with 77% ordering online and getting goods shipped to their home compared with 70% before the pandemic.
- While stores are open, the convenience of hybrid shopping remains with 32% buying at a local store and having it delivered, 38% picking up items in-store and 36% doing curbside pick up.
Top weekly activities
- The study looked at the top 10 activities consumers engaged in during the past week in June and compared it to April 2020. There were big gains in activities that were restricted a year ago such as shopping for groceries at the store (84% in June 21 vs. 70% in April 20), getting together with friends and family (59% in June 21 vs. 18% in April 20), dining out (43% in June 21 vs. 2% in April 20), shopping for clothes (30% in June 21 vs. 6% in April 20), going to coffee shops (25% in June 21 vs. 7% in April 20) and planning vacations (15% in June 21 vs. 3% in April 20). Plus, there was a ten point jump in driving in vehicles (77% in June 21 vs. 67% in April 20) as people have returned to the road.
Listening to AM/FM Radio
- Radio reached 122.1 million consumers in PPM markets during an average week in May 2021 which was an 8% Year-over-Year increase vs. May 2020.
- Radio’s average quarter-hour (AQH) audience peaked at 7.8 million people in PPM markets in May 2021 which was a 20% Year-over-Year gain vs. May 2020.