••• public opinion

Past the pandemic

Americans eager to resume activities 

With many states lifting coronavirus restrictions and vaccinations becoming more widely available, Americans are looking forward to life after the pandemic. In a recent article, Chris Jackson and Mallory Newall of Ipsos explored new research on what Americans are most excited to do once conditions are appropriate.

Americans are ready for an end to coronavirus restrictions and the ability to see those outside of their household. The most anticipated event is not having to think about coronavirus or social distancing, with 74% of respondents agreeing, and 72% percent of Americans look forward to not having to wear masks in public anymore. Americans are excited to see their family and friends, too, with over 60% saying they look forward to meeting with friends and family outside of their household and having dinner in restaurants with their friends.

With only 7% of Americans currently going on holiday trips and 15% going on day trips, it’s not surprising that 56% percent are looking forward to resuming these activities. Around half of Americans are looking forward to going to parties such as birthdays or weddings (56%), bars or restaurants (52%), indoor cinemas or theaters (52%) and large public gatherings such as sporting or music events (50%).

Respondents are ready for their kids to get back to usual activities, with half of Americans with children looking forward to sending their kids back to school – though another 16% report that their child or children are already attending school in-person. Missed opportunities from the pandemic have affected everyone and 52% percent of Americans with children say they’re excited to take their kids to visit their grandparents again.

Although respondents are ready to get back to the activities and people they’ve missed, these feelings are more complicated in regard to the workplace. Among Americans who are currently employed, less than 40% are excited about seeing their work colleagues in person (38%), getting dressed in smart or stylish clothes (38%) and commuting to and from their place of work (27%). Much of this lack of excitement comes from the fact that many Americans are already doing these activities. Thirty-five percent say they are already commuting to and from their place of work, while 28% say they already see their work colleagues in person.

The study was conducted by Ipsos between March 2-3, 2021, and surveyed 1,005 U.S. adults.

••• employment research

The travails of remote work

U.K. freelancers feel effects of pandemic across industries

In 2020, the traditional freelancer lifestyle of remote-working became a requirement, as employees from around the world were required to work from home. Worksome polled 1,202 U.K. freelancers whose jobs were divided roughly between design, photo and video (22.3%); IT, software and data (24.9%); sales and marketing (16.3%); and communication (8.1%) to learn more about how the pandemic has impacted freelancing. 

While many of the survey respondents were already freelancing prior to the pandemic, 21.4% began freelancing during COVID-19. Ninety-five percent of those who began freelancing during that time said that COVID-19 had an impact on their decision to start, either because it provided for a wider range of jobs in different locations or because theirs positions were made redundant.

Though 57% of survey respondents had a positive experience while working in 2020, 43% were negatively affected. Those who had positive experiences contributed this to either an increase in freelance/contractor roles available or the global shift to remote work. On the flip side, those who had a negative experience contributed it to either an increase in competition and difficulty when finding a role or less freelance job availability. The experience varied across industries, with the most positive response seen from sales and marketing (66.7%) and HR/administration (66.7%) and the least positive response seen from design, photo and video (58.7%). The pandemic’s effects on freelance job availability was remarkably split as well. Of those who saw a difference, 50.7% saw an increase in job availability while 49.3% saw a decrease. 

Most freelancers found the transition to remote work straightforward, with 74% of survey respondents saying it was easy to work remotely. Others found it challenging, with 19% reporting that they missed the face-to-face interaction that happened in the office as well as the opportunities for brainstorming and creativity. Forty-one percent of survey respondents found that their productivity levels were unaffected by working remotely, while 32.8% felt they were actually more productive, as they spent less time commuting and going to meetings. Many (74.5%) even felt happier working as a freelancer than a permanent employee. 

However, the pandemic still presented similar challenges to freelancers as it did to permanent positions. Sixty-four percent of survey respondents said they earned less than usual during COVID-19 and 71.4% of freelancers experienced cancellations or delays due to the pandemic. Many (67.2%) of freelancers surveyed didn’t think the government did enough to support them during the pandemic and 25.3% needed to make claims with the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. Of those who made claims, 67.2% felt it was not enough to support them through a period of unemployment. 

Ultimately, 82% of freelancers surveyed plan to continue working as a freelancer or independent contractor after COVID-19 ends.

The study surveyed 1,202 respondents across the U.K. from November 11, 2020, to January 17, 2021.

••• health and beauty

The new perfumer

Study examines shifts in beauty buying behavior

Beauty habits are constantly evolving. But this process has been especially apparent through the COVID-19 pandemic – as Americans donned masks and avoided public gatherings, we grappled with “mascne” and debated wearing makeup to company Zoom meetings. And when we did buy new beauty products, we started doing it the same way we shopped for many other things – online.

Research from PowerReviews revealed that 54% of beauty buyers say they wear less makeup than before the pandemic and 56% say they focus more on skincare. And they’re not just wearing less – they’re spending less too. Forty-one percent say they spend less overall on beauty products than before COVID-19. However, 21% says they actually spend more and another 38% report that their spending has stayed the same. The likelihood to spend more on beauty products increases in line with household income; 24% of those whose households make more than $100,000 claim they spend more than before the pandemic.

The beauty category has also experienced the shift to online that many other categories saw. Eighty-seven percent say they spend more or the same online than before COVID-19, again with the highest income bracket more likely to spend online. About half (49%) say they now spend more than $50 online on beauty products, compared to 16% when asked this same question in 2019. However, in-store beauty spending at this level has also increased. Forty-one percent say they now spend more than $50 in store, compared to 21% in 2019, and 55% also say they use curbside pick-up more than before the pandemic.
It’s possible that the pandemic and the previous year have shifted the desire to stick with familiar brands as well. Forty percent say they are more likely now than pre-pandemic to buy products they haven’t tried before and 57% of shoppers say that they had never tried more of a quarter of the beauty products they bought online in 2020 – meaning that these were first-time purchases. Additionally, 76% of respondents are focusing on buying products that are sustainably made and 50% are actively seeking out products made by Black-owned beauty brands.
With the shift to online, many beauty shoppers likely benefit from the ease with which product ratings are accessible. In fact, 99% always or sometimes read ratings and reviews when shopping for beauty products online, while this figure for in-store shoppers is 85%. Seventy-nine percent focus on average star rating, 58% care about overall volume of reviews and 49% say they look for recent review content. Forty-one percent say they rely on reviews more than they did pre-COVID-19. This is most prominently the case among younger generations, with 58% of Gen Z claiming this to be the case. User-generated imagery and video is also key, with 38% saying it’s more important than before the pandemic – again this figure is highest among Gen Z at 53%.

The study was conducted by PowerReviews and polled more than 10,000 U.S. beauty consumers in January 2021.

••• consumer research

Making adjustments

Study shows new purchasing habits in cooking, cleaning

Throughout the pandemic, consumer actions and attitudes have seen frequent and surprising changes. In an effort to understand how consumer habits have shifted in the U.S. one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, NCSolutions polled more than 2,000 Americans about their current living and shopping habits.

Since the start of the pandemic, Americans have made it a top priority to clean and disinfect their homes as a way of preventing the spread of the virus. Nearly all respondents (96%) say they spend the same (55%) or more time (41%) cleaning now than pre-pandemic. In terms of how much they spend for products for cleaning and disinfecting their homes, 89% say they spent the same (54%) or more (35%) since the pandemic began. Notably, almost a third of consumers (32%) say they have no plans to go back to their pre-pandemic rates of cleaning. Purchase data supports this consumer sentiment. Spending on cleaning products is up 36% year-over-year (March 2020 through February 2021) compared to the same period a year prior. The increase is more than in any other grocery category.

Consumers also indicate they’re placing a high priority on maintaining physical health. Eating healthy foods is one way that 47% of survey respondents say they’ve taken care of themselves during the pandemic and 38% say they’re regularly exercising. A significant number of respondents are following expert guidelines. Eight in 10 consumers report wearing masks, three-quarters of respondents practice social distancing and more than half (55%) say they take vitamins and supplements. These behaviors carry over into how and where consumers shop for groceries. Forty-two percent of consumers say they visit the grocery store so they can get out of the house and feel normal. On the other hand, more than one in four consumers say they find in-person shopping at the grocery store to be stressful. No matter where they shop, Americans are adding healthy food and supplements to their baskets. Spending on fresh produce is up 24% compared to the year prior and purchases of vitamins and supplements are up 21% year-over-year.

More than half of Americans (56%) don’t believe the pandemic will subside until 2022 or later, while a resounding 80% are optimistic about the post-vaccine environment. Looking forward to the spring and summer, 41% of consumers say they plan to drive to destinations away from home, while 38% say they plan to have outdoor social gatherings. One in three (34%) Americans plan to eat out more at restaurants. However, only 30% say they plan to visit public venues. Regardless of plans to resume normal outings, cooking at home is now a staple of the American diet. Almost half (47%) of respondents say they cook more frequently now than before the pandemic. Frozen foods (29%), staples such as dry grains and beans (28%) and baking ingredients (27%) were the food categories with the highest growth during the pandemic. Many of these high-growth categories reflected the need to keep pantries stocked and to support more cooking at home.

The top 10 food and household items Americans say they must always have a supply of in their homes include cleaning supplies (81%), which ranked number one. But six other items related to managing physical and emotional health were also deemed necessary. These include health care items such as painkillers and thermometers (63%); proteins such as chicken, fish and eggs (63%); fresh fruits and vegetables (63%); snack foods (58%); baking ingredients (55%); and vitamins and supplements (54%).

Snacking while engaging in entertainment options is another way Americans are coping while being more homebound. Ninety-one percent of Americans say they snack while watching TV or while doing other forms of home entertainment and 67% say they snack while enjoying other forms of entertainment.

Home entertainment played an important role as an emotional healer during the pandemic – 69% of Americans say watching television and movies is the top activity they engage in to take care of themselves emotionally since the start of the pandemic. Americans are leaning into media as a coping source, with 33% of Americans using social media more and 28% reading more magazines and books.

The study was fielded by NCSolutions from February 26 – March 2, 2021, and polled 2,017 U.S. adults. 

••• real estate research

Burning to buy

Report reveals homebuying trends from the past year

The popularity of multigenerational homes increased over the last year, as a rising number of homebuyers purchased larger residences compared to prior years, including Millennials who continue to make up the largest share of homebuyers at 37%.

According to the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) 2021 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report, which draws from survey data from a 12-month period ending in July 2020, Millennials have been the largest share of buyers since NAR’s 2014 report. The most recent data shows that 82% of younger millennials and 48% of older Millennials were first-time homebuyers, more than other age groups.

According to the study, during the last year, 18% of homebuyers between the ages of 41 to 65 purchased a multigenerational home – a home that will house adult siblings, adult children, parents or grandparents. Homebuyers ages 75 to 95 were the second most likely to purchase a multigenerational home and were most likely to purchase senior-related housing, at 27%.

With inventory levels being alarmingly low in recent years and even dropping to record-low levels last year, a number of would-be homebuyers consequently had difficulties finding adequate housing options. Nearly six in 10 homebuyers between the ages of 22 to 40 said just finding the right property was the most challenging step in the buying process and more than half of all homebuyers (53%) said the same.

Twenty-eight percent of homebuyers between the ages of 22 to 30 lived with parents, relatives or friends before purchasing – higher than any other generation. Living with family first tends to allow flexibility toward saving for a down payment and finding a home, given the low housing inventory. Twenty percent of homebuyers between the ages of 22 to 30 were unmarried, a decline from 21% from a year ago. Additionally, 22% of homebuyers between the ages of 66 and 74 were single women.

In terms of buyer characteristics, 19% of older Baby Boomers – buyers between the ages of 66 and 74 – and 18% of Generation X – buyers ages 41 to 55 – were most likely to purchase a new home to prevent having to do renovations or avoid plumbing or electricity problems. These buyers prioritized having the ability to choose and customize design features.

Seventeen percent of buyers who are part of the Silent Generation – those between the ages of 75 to 95 – purchased newly-built homes. These buyers were least likely to compromise in their home search and least likely to purchase a detached single-family home.

As is always the case in real estate, location proved to be an important component among buyers. Fifty-four percent of homes purchased by homebuyers ages 31 to 40 were located in a suburb or subdivision. Out of this age group, 69% said the quality of the neighborhood influenced their neighborhood selection. That sentiment was shared by buyers ages 22 to 30 to the tune of 65%. However, an even stronger factor among this age bracket was “convenience to workplace,” as 74% cited that when deciding on a neighborhood, proximity to where they worked was imperative.

Older Boomers (35%) and the Silent Generation (36%) also valued their neighborhood being close to areas in which they could shop and both groups (28% and 31%, respectively) stated that proximity or convenience to a health care facility was an influential factor in choosing a neighborhood.

Among all sellers, the most commonly cited reason for wanting to sell their residence was a desire to move closer to friends and family (15%), followed by the home being too small (14%) and a change in family situation (12%).

In the midst of the pandemic, the usefulness of virtual tours skyrocketed, especially among 22- to 40-year-old buyers. Out of all buyers, 88% cited a real estate agent as an information source they used during their home search but that share rises to 91% among younger Millennial buyers ages 22 to 30. Two percent of all buyers and sellers were from Generation Z.

Buyers from all generations – more than half (51%) – primarily wanted their agent’s help to find the right home to buy. Homebuyers also called on agents to help with brokering the terms of their sale and to aid with price negotiations. According to the NAR report, the oldest and youngest age groups, those 66 and older, as well as those ages 22 to 30, were more likely to want their agent’s assistance with paperwork. In terms of selling and consistent across all age groups, nine in 10 home sellers worked with an agent to sell their home.

The largest share of all home sellers was Baby Boomers at 43%. Sellers aged 55 and younger often upgraded to a larger and more expensive home while staying relatively close to their prior home. Sellers 56 years and older regularly purchased a home that was similar in size but less expensive than the home they sold by moving farther away.

Overall, sellers stayed in their previous home for a median of 10 years before selling, with a median of six years among sellers ages 31 to 40 and a median of 16 years among sellers 66 and older. Recently sold homes were generally on the market for a median of three weeks.

The survey was conducted by the National Association of Realtors from July 2019 to July 2020 and polled 8,212 primary residence buyers.