Seasonal Shopping at a Crossroads—Plenty of Revenue Opportunities But There’s No Time to Waste

Don’t count out consumer interest in the holidays; Canadians plan to shop for seasonal items this year, even with pandemic restrictions.

In 2019, consumers spent a record $7.4 billion online on Black Friday and a further $9.4 billion on Cyber Monday. And while various media outlets ponder the potential demise of seasonal spending—due, in part, to financial concerns and tighter budgets related to the pandemic—some online retailers are hedging their bets that consumers will still want to shop. 

Take Amazon Prime Day: Usually a mid-July event, it’s shifted to October 13–14 this year and reports suggest that Amazon plans to de-emphasize the typical summer and back-to-school sales push and instead, make an early lead-in to the holiday season. The sales that Amazon’s expected to generate from this two-day event: $9.91 billion, up 43% from last year’s Prime Day.

In contrast, heavily brick-and-mortar–based Home Depot announced in early September that they would be “reinventing” Black Friday by offering discounts for two months, beginning in early November and running through December. The stated reason: Promote the safety and sanity of their customers, who normally rush to stores to grab the best deals.

What’s leading major retailers to make such big bets on consumers’ seasonal shopping intent? Well, if numbers from the U.S. are any indication, the pandemic has actually driven higher sales around key holidays than a year before. To wit, Adobe reports that Memorial Day 2020 sales reached $3.5 billion, a 63% growth over decidedly lacklustre 2019 spending.

What’s more, Google research (reported here) indicates that 73% of U.S. holiday shoppers say they plan to do more shopping online this year than they have in previous years, and 77% will browse for gift ideas online rather than in store—an indication of the ease that omnichannel shopping brings to concerned populations who are reticent to get back to brick-and-mortar retail. 

Though we march to the beat of our own drum in Canada on a number of measures, we were curious to understand how Canadians will be shopping this holiday season. Specifically: Will Canadians complete more or less of their shopping online, and will they be spending more or less than in previous years? What purchases will they invest in and what others will they let go of? And what will these patterns mean for retailers as they look ahead to what’s usually the busiest retail season of the year.

Let’s dig into the data to find out.

HOW FAR AHEAD ARE CANADIAN SHOPPERS PLANNING AHEAD AND WHAT DO THEY PLAN ON PURCHASING?

Consumers are beginning their holiday shopping earlier each year, and 2020 is no exception. If anything, consumers are planning even further ahead this year, potentially as a means to avoid the same availability or delivery issues experienced earlier in the pandemic.

Among our Canada-wide Caddle users who anticipated making holiday purchases, nearly 28% had already started to create a shopping list by mid-September (especially people living in the Maritimes, who significantly over-indexed on this measure, with values ranging from 41% in New Brunswick to 46% in Newfoundland). Meanwhile, an equal proportion of our general population planned to start in November. And, among those respondents who planned to complete most of their holiday shopping in-store, nearly one-third argued that they’d research and plan much earlier than they had in previous years.

Canadians seem most interested in purchasing items that can deliver immediate gratification: Clothing and Accessories (39%), Electronics and Appliances (26%), and Health and Personal Care (13%) top the list of product categories they’re most interested in shopping for this coming holiday season, while understandably, given continued lockdown in cities across the country, Travel comes in last for all respondents, at 1.5%. (Likewise, in a separate Caddle Panel from later in September, nearly a third of respondents indicated that they planned to decrease spending in the fall/winter on Travel.)

WHICH CHANNELS DO CANADIANS FAVOUR FOR THEIR SEASONAL SHOPPING IN 2020?

Canadian consumers are almost 2x more excited about Black Friday shopping than Boxing Day and Cyber Monday, and this seems to correlate with their preferred shopping locations.

Based on our research, many consumers seem undeterred from visiting brick-and-mortar locations. On the one hand, among our Caddle users who were most excited about Black Friday and Boxing Day shopping opportunities, at least 40% are likely to shop at a brick-and-mortar location at least once over the holiday season. (Prince Edward Islanders are far and away the most likely, at 72%, while Quebeckers are least likely, at 38%.)

On the other hand, when it comes to the top categories of products they’d purchase (as outlined above), responses were mixed, and included “Mostly online with some in-store shopping” (34%), “Online and in-store equally” (22%), and “Mostly in-store with some online” (20%). In the meantime, “Online only” and “In-store only” ranked relatively lower and fairly equally matched, at 13% and 11% respectively.

Interestingly, buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS)/curbside hardly registers for these respondents. This could relate to the fact that winter weather can be unpredictable at best and downright nasty at worst—making a trip to pick up already purchased items a slog. 

However, it’s a curious finding when we consider that among consumers who had completed most of their holiday purchases in-store in 2019, 56% were interested in shifting to BOPIS/curbside. This is particularly the case among Gen Zers from Newfoundland and Alberta (87.5% and 68%, respectively), as well as Prince Edward Islanders (60.8%), British Columbians (60.5%) and Newfoundlanders (59%) of all ages.

DO CANADIANS PLAN TO SPEND MORE OR LESS ON HOLIDAY SHOPPING THAN IN PREVIOUS YEARS?

Most Canadians plan to shop and spend “about the same” amount in the latter months of the year when compared to previous years.

This comes as a bit of a surprise, as we learned elsewhere that nine in ten Canadians had tightened their budgets as a result of financial concerns driven by the pandemic. And it raises some important questions: Are more Canadians seeing the light at the end of the COVID tunnel? Or perhaps they feel like they’ve held back long enough and want to return to “normal,” at least for the holidays.

We may also find some insights in our panel’s thinking around “treating themselves”: A third of respondents said they had purchased a treat or a luxury item to keep their spirits up during the pandemic.

This finding dates back to the early days of the pandemic, and perhaps hints at the growing need for consumers to continue to “treat” themselves as a second wave of COVID cases is on our doorsteps.

At the same time, the majority of our Caddle users (70%) indicated they’d be more mindful about how much they’d spend this coming fall/winter—especially respondents from Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick (72% each), and Alberta (74%).

KEY TAKEAWAYS

PEOPLE ARE PLANNING AND SHOPPING FOR THE HOLIDAYS EVEN EARLIER THAN EXPECTED.

According to a recent Shopify webinar, Google data from 2019 indicated that shoppers had entered Black Friday/Cyber Monday week with more than a third of their shopping already completed. And by late August 2020, 1 in 4 shoppers had already started their holiday shopping. 

With seasonal spending beginning earlier each year—and consumers primed for big deals because of Amazon and other online mega-retailer events—Canada’s retail sector needs to get ahead of the curve (and fast!) if they’re going to be able to take advantage of consumer interest in seasonal spending.

CANADIANS ARE OPEN TO DIFFERENT WAYS OF GETTING THEIR SEASONAL SHOPPING FIX.

The pandemic has caused significant changes to the way people get things done—and that’s fantastic news for retailers. Why? Because even those die-hard brick-and-mortar shoppers from holidays-past are now more willing than ever to consider online shopping or a hybrid (i.e., BOPIS).

Smart retailers will take advantage of this opportunity, and if they haven’t already gotten their omnichannel shopping and fulfillment plans squared away, will definitely want to do so well before winter hits and “in-store only” shopping becomes less desirable for many consumers.

SHOPPERS MAY BE NOSTALGIC FOR “BETTER TIMES” AND WILL KEEP UP THEIR SPENDING HABITS IN THE COMING HOLIDAY SEASON. 

Though consumers continue to be conscious of the effects of COVID on their finances, they’re also still planning on shopping this coming holiday season—especially for particular categories, like clothing and accessories, electronics and appliances, and health and personal care items.

That’s great news for retailers who already stock these types of products. But it’s also a ripe opportunity for alternative banners to get ahead of the holiday spending season; consider integrating these coveted categories into your assortment to take advantage of Canadian consumer intent in the coming months.

Growth of Lawn & Garden Activities Indicates More Canadians Are Embracing Stay-at-Home

Growing vegetables, flowers and houseplants top the list of gardening projects pursued by most Canadians

While some may argue that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the worst in people (e.g., only three in five Canadians are reportedly wearing masks when out in public—one of the lowest rates worldwide), we at Caddle prefer to take a “glass half full” perspective.

Yes, indeed, we’re witnessing some odd behaviour—perhaps driven by anxiety and isolation blues. But when it comes to how Canadians are spending their time during the progressive stages of lockdown, we’ve been buoyed to find that they’re sticking closer to home and working with what they’ve got locally to stay healthy, happy and as motivated as possible while under restricted movement.

We were interested to understand the types of activities that are keeping Canadians busy whilst they work from home, care for family members and in general, go about their daily lives during the pandemic. And, while reports suggest that record numbers of people are redirecting travel budgets into cottage purchases, responses from our Daily Survey Panels reveal that just as many (if not more) are turning to gardening for a healthy, cost- and family-conscious break from the woes of COVID.

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The question remains whether these new habits will persist once we’re past this emotionally difficult time.

 

Let’s dig in to find out:

HOW ARE CANADIANS KEEPING BUSY DURING THE PANDEMIC?

Aside from the work of staying healthy and safe, working from home, taking care of family members and other requisite tasks, we wanted to know how Canadian consumers were keeping busy. The answer: Hobbies! 

The vast majority of respondents (90%) believe that taking up a new hobby during the pandemic is good for their mental health.

Meanwhile, nearly equal proportions of respondents believe that taking up a new hobby during the pandemic is good for “self improvement,” “to learn something new,” and “to avoid boredom/pass the time” (25%, 23% and 19%, respectively).

What are Canadians’ new hobbies of choice? Tied for second are “gardening/landscaping” and “cooking/baking” (both at 16%), followed very closely by “home renovations/improvements” (at 15%)—indicating that the majority of Canadian respondents are not just embracing but making the most of stay-at-home protocols during the pandemic and into the latter half of 2020.

Baby Boomers and people from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Quebec and P.E.I. seem most interested in gardening as a hobby in 2020 (at almost 19% each), while Gen Zers and people from New Brunswick and Saskatchewan under-indexed on this response (at about 13% each). This is perhaps indicative of the younger generation’s lack of access to green space of their own, though doesn’t necessarily hold true for every province. 

WHICH CANADIANS HAVE THE GREENEST THUMBS?

Among the respondents who garden, 48% were spending more time in the garden than the month previous, and 85% expected to continue gardening for the rest of the summer season.

Out of our panel, female-identifying Canadians have been spending more time in the garden, while Saskatchewanians, New Brunswickers and Prince Edward Islanders (93%), Manitobans (92%) and Nova Scotians (86%) expect to continue gardening into the next season.

And into the future? We expect to see over a third of our general population gardening more in the year to come than in 2020. (Overall, just over 5% of respondents said they’d be gardening less in 2021.)

Millennials and New Brunswickers seem especially keen to get their hands dirty in the garden in 2021 (over-indexing at 42% and 44%, respectively).

WHAT ARE CANADIANS GROWING?

Because this subject has bearing on a slew of different factors in people’s lives—from their hobbies and interests to their eating and spending habits, and more—we’ve looked at the contents of Canadian gardens in several different surveys. 

From mid-July 2020, we learned that four of five respondents (more than 82%) are interested in growing their own fruits and vegetables—especially Prince Edward Islanders, who over-index the most (at almost 91%), Saskatchewanians (at 89%), Manitobans, (at 87.5%), Nova Scotians and New Brunswickers (at 85% each), and British Columbians and Quebeckers (at 83% each).

In a follow-up survey from later in July, we explored Canadians’ intentions for future gardening projects, and once again, fruits and vegetables came out on top: More than half of respondents indicated they’d like to accomplish an outdoor vegetable/herb/fruit growing project. When we add in the number of Caddle users who wish to grow vegetables/herbs/fruit indoors (bringing the total number up to 75%), it’s clear that more Canadians are prioritizing the growth of healthier food ingredients among their off-time activities.

It’s important to note, too, that respondents listed growing flowers and houseplants as the next-most important to them—underlining the fact that Canadians are likely trying to make the best of “work from home” and “isolating in place” protocols by beautifying their homes the natural way.

WHERE DO CANADIANS GET THEIR GARDENING SUPPLIES & WHAT FACTORS INFLUENCE THEIR PURCHASING DECISIONS?

Back in early May, as provinces began relaxing certain lockdown restrictions, it seems that many Canadians were chomping at the bit to get their green thumbs working the earth again: While almost 60% agreed that it was “somewhat likely”/”very likely” that they’d purchase gardening products during the pandemic, just under 45% indicated that they’d most prefer to shop for those same products in brick-and-mortar stores (a further 32% preferred order online with in-store/curbside pick-up or delivery).

Unsurprisingly, the gardening products that Canadians were most likely to buy online were the most easily shippable—seeds and plants (nearly 36%). Soil and fertilizer ranked second, but with less than half the number as those who identified seeds and plants, we have to wonder if shipping fees for heavier items, as well as the availability of products in early May, might have been a deterrent for eCommerce consumers. 

Note: We learned at the end of May that delivery charges influence shopper decision-making around online purchasing; it’s conceivable, then, that the higher delivery cost of heavy, bagged items like soil would lead more customers to buy online and pick-up in-store (BOPIS) or at the curb-side.

This led us to wonder about the determining factors for Canadians when purchasing soil products. And, true to our typically thrifty ways (also likely exacerbated by tightened budgets brought on by the pandemic), quality and price were equally important factors for the majority of consumers who were considering purchasing soil.

So, where about 35% of our general population identified price as the most important consideration (along with quality of the product), nearly the same percentage of respondents (30%) changed brands because of the price. (Note that this differs from insights gained in April, where brand loyalty still outweighed price, at least in the purchase of luxury goods.)

Unsurprisingly, major hardware and general merchandise retail banners (including Canadian Tire, Home Depot and Walmart) took the lion’s share of soil product purchases—perhaps indicative of their ability to offer a lower price-point to meet consumers’ needs, while also being able to offer the quantities and assortment that smaller and/or more regional retail banners can’t support.

Interestingly, Canadians also similarly valued the soil selection at independent nurseries, possibly in a nod to the tendency for many Canadians to “shop local,” especially during the pandemic.

NOW IS THE TIME TO PUT EFFORT INTO ATTRACTING CUSTOMERS WITH VALUE-ADDED INFO & SERVICES

As pandemic worries wage on—and with the “second wave” expected to hit in the coming months—the gardening boom is unlikely to bust anytime soon, as people continue to try to distract and/or keep themselves busy, and also, work to update their homes and lives while they shelter in place.

Smart retailers will take the opportunity now to prepare people who are new to the gardening lifestyle as well as returning customers for what’s to come in the months ahead. One idea: Provide project “how-tos” in-store and online to help newbies get started. Alternatively, consider the entirety of lawn and garden seasonality, offering tips and ideas for outdoor gardening enthusiasts to keep their hobbies going inside during winter months.

COMPLIMENTARY CATEGORIES BUILD BASKET SIZE & DRIVE MARGINS

There’s a reason that peanut butter is stocked in the same aisle as jams and jellies, along with a freestanding display of loaves of bread: Merchandising complimentary categories in close proximity to each other works to build basket size, particularly for new entrants into a category, who don’t necessarily know what products to buy to accomplish their project.

Consumers will be more loyal to retailers that help them to complete a project from start to finish in one trip with less time in-store (and thus, less potential coronavirus exposure). 

With lawn and garden products, consider merchandising all the products that consumers will need to complete a project, including garden fertilizer, gloves and tools, near the skids of soil, grass seed and mulch.

DON’T COUNT ECOMMERCE OUT FOR THE LAWN & GARDEN CATEGORY

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Canadian retailers need to up their online game if they’re ever to match the eCommerce numbers posted in other countries.

While consumers may not have completely bought-in to online shopping for lawn and garden, the interest in eCommerce options is definitely there—particularly if a second wave of the pandemic causes renewed restrictions on people’s coming and goings. 

At the same time, we know that ratings and reviews make a significant difference in consumers’ decision-making process, especially if the ratings and reviews were posted no more than six months before. Now, it’s up to retailers to encourage adoption of omni-channel shopping. Some ideas: Offer incentives that get customers to BOPIS or at the curb-side. Or alternatively, cultivate new entrants into the category through emphasis on peer ratings and reviews—especially Millennials, who are keen to continue growing their own fruit and vegetables in the coming months and find ratings and reviews to be notably influential in their purchase journeys.

COVID-19 Insights: Customer Experience and Ratings and Reviews Top Influencers for eCommerce in Canada

Upwards of 88% of respondents say ratings and reviews are important when buying something new

Back in the good ol’ days of 2019—pre-pandemic, pre-lockdown, pre-widespread COVID isolation blues—Canadian ecommerce rates were already chugging along: Canada Post research indicated that eight out of ten Canadians had shopped online the year before, and all indications suggested that online shopping rates would continue to grow as markets matured.

Now, eight months into 2020 and five months into COVID life, consumers have shifted more of their retail spending toward eCommerce than expected even a year ago: eMarketer estimates suggest a YOY increase of 20.7% (8.7% of all Canadian retail sales) in 2020, one-third of which will be driven by mobile. (Note that these values are still lower than other countries, such as the U.S., where eCommerce grew 27% in May 2020 from the previous 12 months, according to one CIBC Equity Research report.)

Time will tell how the COVID-driven disruption of the retail market will shake out in the balance of the year. Yet, right now, there’s no question that the lockdown and ongoing health and safety concerns have changed Canadian consumers’ shopping activities.  

And so, we wanted to get first-hand insights into Canadians’ retail behaviour. Specifically, since the beginning of the pandemic, have consumers shifted more of their buying to online channels? And, in general, are they spending more or less now than pre-pandemic? Finally, what factors are most influential in their purchase decision-making?

Let’s dive into the stats to learn what we discovered when we polled our 10,000-strong Caddle user panel.

ARE CANADIANS DOING MORE OF THEIR SHOPPING ONLINE?

Back in June, we asked Canadian consumers which services they were most interested in taking advantage of, once available. Their top responses: Food Services (32.5%), Entertainment (21.1%), and tied for third, Retail (18.7%) and Personal Aesthetic Services (18.1%).

Among our general population, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and respondents in British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador seemed most excited about the return of Retail Services—in many cases, eclipsing Entertainment, though never beating out Food Services for top spot.

WHAT MIGHT BE HOLDING CONSUMERS BACK FROM SHOPPING ONLINE?

While our research identified an uptick in online ordering (especially for groceries) in the early stages of the pandemic, more recent responses indicate that retail stores need to up their online game—though not necessarily to the extent that it jeopardizes their brick-and-mortar shopping experience. Specifically, though more than 44% of respondents indicated they’d be “sad” if retailers focused more on their online stores than their brick and mortar locations (and only 23% said they’d be “happy”), in another study, a little over 60% of people “agreed”/”strongly agreed” that retail stores need to improve their online shopping experience.

Predictably, digital natives are especially critical of the online shopping experience—especially Millennials (65.4%)—as well as male-identifying respondents (63%).

IN CONTRAST, WHAT MIGHT BE DRIVING CONSUMERS TO DIGITAL SHOPPING CHANNELS?

Nearly two-thirds of respondents indicated that in-store service has lagged since the pandemic began. Thus, it’s no surprise that, aside from the convenience and health and safety protocols, more Canadians are flocking to online sites for their retail purchases than before the pandemic.

Cost may come into play too: We had already learned that almost nine in ten Canadians have cut back on spending during the pandemic, whether due to a drop in income (25%), businesses closing (18%) or simply, worry about financial security (41.4%).

In a follow-up panel from July, we determined that nearly 60% of respondents “sometimes” or “often” search for products in-store but purchase online for better deals.

These results suggest that Canadian consumers remain cost-conscious amidst the ongoing uncertainty surrounding COVID and its impact on our nation’s economic and social well-being.

Yet, along with cost, perhaps the most influential factor involved in consumers’ decision-making is the availability of ratings and reviews: Whether in-store or online, the vast majority of Caddle users indicate that ratings and reviews are important when buying something new (88% for in-store and 91% for online).

And, once again, we found digital-native Gen Zers and Millennials to be especially fond of checking ratings and reviews, over-indexing against the general population for both online and in-store, while elder respondents (including Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation) seem to put less value in other people’s opinions when buying something new in any retail setting.

Yet, ratings and reviews are not all equally influential in consumers’ eyes. Upwards of 63% of Caddle users argued that ratings and reviews from six or more months ago are “old”/”outdated,” and an equal number suggested that such old/outdated ratings and reviews would have “no impact” on their buying decisions.

Meanwhile, 41% of consumers would switch to another retailer if ratings and reviews weren’t available on their site.

Without a doubt, these statistics should cause a pause for thought among retailers who are lagging behind on keeping their digital sites up to date.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

ECOMMERCE STILL HAS PLENTY OF ROOM TO GROW IN CANADA

Though some categories are further ahead than others—such as grocery, likely due to the necessity of staying out of harm’s way during the pandemic—the majority of retailers in Canada have a long way to go to match the eCommerce numbers posted in other countries, including our neighbours to the south.

Retailers’ best opportunities may exist in winning the hearts, minds and shopping dollars of those Canadians who are most excited about the return of Retail Services. If they can prove to Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and people in British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador that their eCommerce experience is as good (if not better) than the brick-and-mortar experience—or perhaps connect their services to categories with highest anticipation upon re-opening (i.e., Food Services and Entertainment)—there’s a higher likelihood that they’ll win share of basket away from competitors with more solid eCommerce experiences.

RETAILERS NEED TO CONTINUE TO BUILD ON THEIR ONLINE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

We’ve known this for some time in relation to brick-and-mortar retail, but with the anticipated growth in eCommerce—and plenty of room for online retail development in Canada (see Takeaway #1, above)—no retailer, in any category, can afford to rest on their laurels when it comes to digital customer experience.

In the words of Bruce Winder, author of RETAIL Before, During & After COVID-19, “eCommerce… is here to stay and it’s going to grow, especially with certain demographics. I would invest in technology, both for omnichannel and eCommerce, as well as adding technology to the stores too… With Amazon coming in and roaring, I’d be getting my ‘A Game’ on now [in order to compete with global contenders].”

THE MOST IMPORTANT DRIVER OF ONLINE CONVERSION IS RATINGS AND REVIEWS

Take them or leave them, ratings and reviews are proving to be a crucial factor in consumers’ retail decision-making process. 

As such, brands need to do whatever they can to establish a solid source of customer comments—and keep them coming, as recency is also important—if they’re going to continue to grow their share of eCommerce dollars in the months ahead.

COVID-19 Insights: The Future of Live Events is Uncertain as Canadians Still Wary of Mass Gatherings

“Take me out to the ballgame” has new meaning with only a third of respondents interested in attending live sports as soon as they become available

Sports and live event sponsorships are a huge business: This past January, Marketing Dive predicted the strongest increase in global sports sponsorships spend (+5%), to a total of $48.4 billion by the end of 2020. But, that was pre-pandemic. More recently, it was estimated that the NFL could lose a reported $5.5 billion in stadium revenues (the sum of tickets, concessions, sponsors, parking and team stores) from playing to empty stadiums. And that’s just one professional sports league among the many worldwide…

From the NFL to NHL, NBA to MLB, MLSE and CFL, not to mention other billion-dollar leagues, venues, musical events and so much more—the pandemic has hit live entertainment hard over the last four months, and event life isn’t expected to get back to “normal” for some time.

Meanwhile, plenty of stories have emerged about how brands are attempting to “stay the course” amid ongoing attendance uncertainties: 

  • Sports teams are playing to empty or half-empty stadiums; some are even subbing in cut-outs, dolls or digital representations of fans in the stands to make it seem more “normal” for viewers at home.
  • Property management company Cadillac Fairview has piloted drive-in theatres to bring traffic back to mall parking lots
  • Musical artists are taking to digital performance app Side Door to perform, build communities around their art, and recoup lost revenues due to cancelled concerts, appearances and album launches. 

We here at Caddle are no less fanatic about our sports and entertainment than other Canadians. And so, we were curious to understand what the future of sponsorships will look like moving forward, under ongoing pandemic restrictions and after. 

Specifically, we wanted to know how fans feel about the lack of live sports and entertainment in their lives. Would they return to live sporting and entertainment events? And if so, when? What terms would make attending live events acceptable? And, are Canadian consumers open to other forms of events, such as drive-in concerts.

Read on to learn what we discovered when we asked industry experts like Chris Shewfelt of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), as well as our 10,000+ daily user panel, about the outlook for sports and entertainment in the coming months.

HOW DO CANADIANS FEEL ABOUT PROFESSIONAL SPORTS RESUMING IN SUMMER 2020?

Almost half of respondents on our Canadian panel are neutral on the subject of the return of professional sports this summer, while in general, more respondents are negative about the resumption of sports than positive (31% vs. 23%, respectively).

Who seems most excited about the return of professional sports? Saskatchewanians over-index on positivity (at 30%), along with Manitobans (28%), Prince Edward Islanders (27%), Albertans (26%) and Quebeckers (25%).

IS IT TOO SOON FOR PROFESSIONAL SPORTS TO RETURN?

Following on the above question, we asked whether professional sports organizations should have cancelled their 2020 seasons. In response, 74% of the general population said “yes.” [Female-identifying respondents and those living in the Yukon, the Maritimes, British Columbia and Saskatchewan seem especially adamant (over-indexing up to 80%).]

Perhaps this is because the level of interest in viewing sports has been affected by the pandemic blues: About 35% of the general panel of respondents indicated that their interest in watching sports has “decreased”/”significantly decreased,” while only 16% thought their interest had “increased”/”significantly increased.”

With the seeming effects of the pandemic on consumer interest in live sports, we wondered whether attendance would suffer once live venues re-open for widespread public turnout. And once again, our panel results show a clear uncertainty among Canadian consumers.

WILL CANADIANS ATTEND LIVE SPORTING EVENTS IN THE FUTURE

Some Canadian sports fans are ready to head back to sporting venues once they’re made available to the public, though results are mixed. In a recent webinar, we learned from Chris Shewfelt, VP Business Operations with MLSE, that among their bread-and-butter attendees (i.e., season seat holders and members), a high percentage want to come back to MLSE venues. 

This is supported by survey responses from our Caddle panel, where 54% indicated their interest in attending a live sports event as soon as it becomes available—especially Gen Zers (43%), Millennials (39%), Saskatchewanians (40%) and New Brunswickers (37.5%).

WHAT MIGHT BE HOLDING PEOPLE BACK FROM ATTENDING LIVE EVENTS? 

Results indicate that social distancing isn’t a deciding factor for the majority of respondents: Almost 56% indicated that enforced social distancing would make them neither more nor less likely to visit a sports arena. This pattern holds across generational and geographic divides, though Gen Zers are slightly more likely to attend amid enforced social distancing and Gen Xers, the Greatest Generation, and respondents in the Maritimes and Quebec are less likely. 

This could be reflective of the COVID-19 statistics, more so than interest in sports or other live events, as the Maritimes have had reasonably fewer cases than other provinces, and perhaps are eager to take precautions to stay that way. At the same time, older populations and folks in Quebec have been hit hard by the illness, and for that reason, might want to stay away from situations where they could be newly exposed. 

Also: These statistics were collected in May, at a time when Alberta, British Columbia and other harder-hit provinces hadn’t yet experienced spikes in COVID cases that they would later in the summer months. In a follow-up panel from June 3, 50% of respondents said they would attend live entertainment events at the same rate as they did pre-pandemic.

Meanwhile, about the same percentage of the general population (57%) also indicated their concern over professional sports teams’ ability to accurately report COVID-19 testing results. This indicates that the pandemic remains of concern for Canadians, but it won’t necessarily stop them from attending live events moving forward.

WHAT MIGHT INCENTIVIZE CONSUMERS TO COME BACK TO LIVE EVENT VENUES?

At least for Canadian sports viewers, alcohol consumption has proven to be a significant part of the experience, with nearly 15% agreeing that it improves their viewing. This is especially the case for Gen Zers and Millennials, and less so for Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and the Greatest Generation. 

The message here, then, is that the experience in-venue has got to be as close to its earlier, pre-pandemic incarnation; this includes the necessity for concessions to sell alcohol to amplify the sports-watching experience.

Additionally, we know that COVID-19 has affected financial stability for many Canadians, and financial concerns seem to cast a shadow over their interest in attending live events. Specifically, over 50% of Canadians are not interested in live events if circumstances surrounding the pandemic cause an increase in ticket prices.

And finally, creative approaches to social distancing while also providing entertainment seem to be amenable for a significant number of Canadians. For instance, about 50% of Caddle users are “very interested”/”somewhat interested” in drive-in concerts.

This suggests that, even more so now than during pre-COVID times, brands who get creative with looking after consumers’ wants and needs will win back their attendance, and by extension, their share of entertainment revenues. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

EVENT PRIORITIES ARE GOING TO NEED TO CONTINUE TO PROVIDE FANS

In a recent webinar, retail industry insider Bruce Winder spoke of how retailers would need to work overtime to make sure that consumers feel comfortable in-store. This extends to live event venues, too: “[They] need to ensure that cleanliness and social distancing are in place… you’re really telling people that it’s safe to come back again.”

Chris Shewfelt of MLSE concurred: “The live sporting event has changed. When live events come back, there are certain aspects that the consumer is going to demand of those properties.” 

Whether it’s taking measures to emphasize their cleanliness protocols, revising floor plans to allow for streamlined entrance and exit, or offering incentives like reasonable ticket prices even while social distancing, brands are going to need to continue to provide fans with reassurance that they’re taking precautions to make live event venues as safe and yet, still enjoyable, as possible.

BRANDS WILL NEED TO INNOVATE THEIR SPONSORSHIP PROGRAMS TO BE MORE COMPETITIVE IN “THE NEW NORMAL”

Brands are facing a new marketplace where some of their most effective promotional opportunities are simply no longer available, including in-venue advertising and promotions, broadcast plays, major event sponsorships like the Summer Olympics, plus countless other traditionally high-ticket placements. 

In their stead, Shewfelt suggests that the brands must be prepared to innovate. “Maybe they weren’t thinking about virtual ads in the past… we need that evolution to happen in real time in order for sports teams to pay their expenses.” 

New promotional placements, including virtual ad insertions and high-impact fan engagement in real time, are likely to revolutionize the future of live events, and Shewfelt believes that the winners in this brave new marketplace will be those who recognize the opportunities and are first to take advantage of them.

TECHNOLOGY IS A REVENUE-ENABLER FOR LIVE EVENT VENUES

In addition to the safety and health-related upgrades and initiatives suggested above, consumer demands will continue to emphasize convenience and (relatively instant) gratification. And though this isn’t new among the considerations for most modern sports and entertainment venues, technological innovations have a role to play in continuing to advance consumers’ interests in attending live events, instead of just catching them at home or online.

For instance, Shewfelt explains, “The new normal doesn’t necessarily mean lining up at a concession.” MLSE had already gone mobile with all of their venues from a retail and food perspective. But he acknowledges that venues need to make the path to purchase quicker. Cashless transactions will likely be a key component in this process, as “conversion in venues to a more tech-driven environment is going to be very important with the sports and entertainment world in the months to come.”

COVID-19 Insights: Ongoing Health and Safety Concerns Will Drive More Travel Dollars to Domestic Vendors in 2020 and Beyond

With many travel itineraries waylaid by COVID, 70%+ of consumers plan to stick closer to home for their vacation fix

Have your 2020 travel plans been busted? Ours too. Gone are the days when we could simply hop online, book an all-inclusive package and whisk ourselves away to paradise for a week… at least for the time-being.

Our survey results show that the COVID pandemic and its ongoing effects on consumer health, wealth and personal lives will have significant repercussions on travel plans for many Canadians: More than half of consumers report they won’t be travelling anytime in 2020—even once non-essential travel becomes available—and 60% are unlikely to vacation somewhere warm this winter.

Given these results, we were curious to understand whether the funds earmarked for international travel in 2020 and beyond will be diverted to destinations closer to home. And, true to our reputation both here and on the world stage, Canadians seem to take pride in their local environs, and more than 70% would prefer visiting domestic destinations (including cottages and campgrounds, RVs and road trips) over international travel in the balance of the year.

Let’s dive into the responses from the past month to learn more.

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WHAT’S HAPPENED TO CANADIANS’ TRAVEL PLANS?

More than three-quarters of Caddle’s 9,000-strong user panel have not arranged any summer travel plans—particularly the eldest respondents, including Baby Boomers, at 82%.

In fact, over half of respondents indicated that they won’t take non-essential trips by plane in the balance of the year, even once travel becomes more available to them. (Gen Zers are slightly more amenable, almost 15% of whom indicating they’ll travel as soon as possible. At the same time, respondents in the Maritimes seem especially reticent to fly, especially 65% of Newfoundlander respondents.)

If they were to travel this summer, respondents again overwhelmingly favour domestic excursions over international destinations. Among Caddle’s general population, road trips as well as local destinations like cottages and campgrounds ranked equally well, at just under a quarter of respondents each.

However, it’s interesting to note that these preferences fluctuate by region, which may be indicative of differential access to accommodations and/or local destinations. So, while Albertan respondents prefer camping and road trips (at about 27% each) and Manitobans prioritize camping and cottaging (31% and 23%, respectively), Ontarians prefer cottaging 2x more than camping and road trips and British Columbians and Saskatchewanians rank camping at 2x the rate of cottaging.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE FACTORS CONCERNING CANADIANS MOST ABOUT TRAVEL THESE DAYS?

On the one hand, respondents are overwhelmingly concerned about contracting COVID-19 while on vacation.

This is consistent across all generations, though the eldest respondents (including those among the Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers and Gen X) over-indexed on “high”/”very high” concerns. This is perhaps most understandable given senior populations’ increased susceptibility to the virus.

Caddle users also overwhelmingly agree that health and safety procedures introduced due to the pandemic would make travel less enjoyable this year, especially Baby Boomers (75%), Gen Xers, Gen Zers and Millennials (72% each) and the Greatest Generation (70%).

Finally, among those who plan to travel by plane in the second half of 2020, price and sanitation/screening practices rank equally high among their considerations, at 37–9% each.

From a regional perspective, Albertans, Quebeckers, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians prioritize price, while Saskatchewanians value sanitation and screening practices more highly. 

Taken together, these consumer insights suggest that the international travel industry will continue to have a tough hill to climb to win back Canadian vacationers in the months and possibly years to come.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

CANADIANS ARE WILLING TO “THINK LOCAL” WITH THEIR TRAVEL PLANNING

From campsites to cottages to RVs to Airbnbs, Canadians seem to be shifting allegiances from international travel destinations to ones closer to home. 

When you combine respondents’ health and safety concerns with the very real threat of contracting COVID-19 through plane travel, we expect that this trend will have positive implications for the restaurant and hotel industries, tourist attractions, campgrounds and equipment vendors, among many other suppliers across Canada.

HEALTH AND SAFETY ARE TOP CONCERNS FOR TRAVELLERS (BUT SO IS PRICE)

With the pandemic continuing to rage south of the border, it’s no wonder that Canadians are increasingly afraid of contracting the virus. Such concerns are likely to persist through the latter half of 2020 and, no doubt, until a viable vaccine is made available in the coming years

As such—and even as provincial restrictions continue to ease—it’ll be important for travel and tourist suppliers to keep health and safety standards top-of-mind among their grassroots-level employees, both to keep the chance of contracting COVID at bay but also in order to alleviate potential customers’ concerns. 

At the same time, because the pandemic has put a major strain on Canadian populations (particularly when it comes to financial concerns), hotel, airline and travel brands should equally prioritize pricing and value if they’re going to attract those Canadians who are willing to take a vacation in the coming months.

GEN ZERS MAY BE THE LOWEST-HANGING FRUIT FOR CANADIAN TRAVEL AND TOURISM SUPPLIERS

In tandem with their relatively more active pandemic lifestyles and interest in healthier eating, Gen Zers are also more likely than other generations to take non-essential trips by plane in the coming months. This makes them a ripe target for travel and tourism suppliers, especially as restrictions ease and favourite restaurants, attractions and other haunts become more accessible to them.

If you’re looking to win Gen Zers’ travel budgets, remember that they tend to be among the least brand-loyal of Caddle respondents and will switch to cheaper offerings as a way to save money. Thus, a focus on health and wellness at a discount is likely to win a greater share of this population’s spend than sticking to tried-and-true brand messaging. 

COVID-19 Insights: Brand-Loyal Alcohol Consumers Ditch Diet Concerns in Favour of Flavour

51% of alcohol consumers never check the nutritional label on alcoholic beverages

Celebrating national holidays looks and feels quite different in 2020 than in years’ past. With many Canadian cities easing quarantine restrictions and hot weather driving more people out of doors, we were interested in understanding whether alcohol consumption patterns had changed in any discernible way over the last four months of lock-down, and what implications that might have on post-pandemic consumption habits.

We learned that, while staying six feet apart and wearing maple leaf–emblazoned face masks in public may have cut into many people’s fun-making this past holiday week, some things haven’t changed: Canadians know what they’re looking for in their alcoholic beverages of choice—with 51% of Caddle users prioritizing taste over nutritional content and 76% staying true to their preferred brands. 

As more public spaces open up in the months ahead, we’ll continue to monitor Canadian consumers’ celebratory habits, including their consumption of alcoholic beverages during the hazy days of summertime and beyond. But it’s safe to say, the majority of Canadian respondents enjoy a tipple from time to time, and the stresses inflicted on people due to the pandemic have only served to reinforce that behaviour for about one in five respondents.

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ARE CANADIANS DRINKING MORE DURING THE PANDEMIC?

Across all demographics, 80% of those who drink are consuming the same amount of alcohol or more, compared to before the pandemic.

Their spirit of choice? Unequivocally, vodka is most popular among Caddle respondents, at 21%. The next most popular spirit is rum, at 11%, while whisky comes in at 8%. This ranking is consistent across all age and geographical segments, except the Greatest Generation (born 1900–45)—who prefer whisky most, followed by rum and liqueurs—and Quebeckers—who prefer rum most, followed by vodka and gin. 

Vodka is also the most popular spirit (39%) among those who reported consuming more alcohol since the pandemic began.

When we look at potential differentiation based on gender, the top three (vodka, rum and whisky) remain the same for both males and females, but while women’s preferences compare positively to the general population—with vodka leading at double the rate of rum—men seem to prefer the three spirits in equal proportion. This suggests that men perhaps enjoy the deeper flavour profile of darker spirits like rum and whisky as much as the lighter flavour of clear spirits like vodka.

HOW BRAND-LOYAL ARE CANADIAN CONSUMERS WHEN IT COMES TO THEIR ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES?

The simple answer is “very”! More than three-quarters of respondents have stuck with their preferred alcohol brands since the start of the pandemic. This is consistent across gender and age divides, though Gen Zers seem to be more open to trying different brands, compared to other generations.

Brand image plays an important role in decision-making around alcoholic beverage purchases for a third of consumers, though an equal percentage are neutral on the subject, across the general population.

Among those panel respondents who have changed brands, 77.5% expect to continue to purchase the new brand after the pandemic.

WHAT OTHER MAJOR FACTORS HAVE AFFECTED CONSUMER DECISION-MAKING ON ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES DURING THE PANDEMIC? 

Broadly speaking, flavour, community consciousness and availability all seem to factor into consumer interest in alcoholic beverages—especially during the pandemic—while nutritional content seems to be the least of consumers’ worries.

So, while 51% or more of Canadian alcohol consumers “never” check nutritional facts listed on alcoholic beverages (Quebeckers over-index at 52%, while Boomers come in at 60%), 61% feel that they should not have to sacrifice great taste when purchasing a low-calorie alcoholic beverage.

At the same time, 60% reported that they’re interested in purchasing alcohol from companies that provided communities with hand sanitizer during the pandemic (including major international players like AB InBev, as well as independents like Yukon Brewing, Niagara’s Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers, Smooth 42 Craft Distillery in Saskatchewan, Montreal’s Duvernois Creative Spirits and Vancouver Island’s Victoria Distillers), while a little over a third of respondents were indifferent.

And, a further 22% of alcohol consumers on the Caddle panel have been purchasing more alcoholic beverages from grocery stores, compared to pre-COVID times.

Taken together, this suggests that a reasonably sized segment of the Canadian population is open to discovering and trying new brands. And, if those brands deliver value—particularly in terms of flavour or community spirit (pun intended)—even better!

KEY TAKEAWAYS

VODKA EMERGES THE SPIRIT OF CHOICE DURING THE PANDEMIC

Relatively flavour-neutral, and therefore easier to mix with a variety of other ingredients, vodka comes out on top as the spirit of choice among the majority of Canadian alcohol drinkers. (The fact that it also comes with fewer calories probably doesn’t hurt. See Takeaway #2, below.)

The beverage industry should continue to take this to heart and look for new ways to integrate vodka into their alcoholic drink assortment, perhaps leveraging strong brand recognition among compatible mix ingredients (e.g., soft drinks, juices, etc.) to enhance their brand image and influence purchasing decisions. Cases in point: Mark Anthony Group’s White Claw; Constellation’s Svedka Spiked Premium Seltzer; and MillerCoors’ Cape Line and Henry’s Hard Soda.

CANADIANS VALUE TASTE OVER LOW-/NO-CAL CLAIMS

Though a significant number of alcoholic beverage manufacturers, including Molson, Labatt, and numerous craft brands, continue to launch ever-new low- or no-calorie options into the ready-to-drink (RTD) market, their efforts may in fact be better applied to introducing new and enticing flavour profiles to attract alcohol-drinking Canadians.

From a marketing perspective, they’re likely to be especially successful targeting Gen Zers, who are more open to trying new brands, especially during COVID lockdown. 

COMMUNITY SPIRIT DRIVES CONSUMER INTEREST DURING COVID

With more than 60% of alcohol consumers expressing interest in purchasing alcohol from manufacturers who pivoted their production to hand sanitizer in the early days of the pandemic, it’s becoming abundantly clear that many Canadians, true to their international image, value community-driven initiatives. 

The alcoholic beverage industry in Canada has an opportunity to further entrench the “feel good” nature of their product marketing, taking a page from such companies as Tito’s Handmade Vodka in the U.S. and Brewgooder in the U.K., by giving back to communities that most consume their products.

COVID-19 Insights: The War Against Chronic Pain Rages On for Many Canadians

Chronic pain is the norm for 20% of Canadians, impacting 1 in 2 households across the country

One in five Canadians are living with chronic pain. When left unmanaged, it can lead to sleeplessness, depression and anxiety, lower quality of life, and isolation, and in extreme cases, poverty, homelessness and even suicide. 

This is supported by our research, which indicates that 51% of Caddle respondents or someone close to them suffer from chronic pain and related issues:

  • 75% of respondents suffer from headaches; 25% of those get them “often.” 
  • 52% of respondents suffer from migraines; nearly 25% of those experience them “sometimes” and a further 11% “often.”
  • 52% of respondents suffer from arthritis pain; almost 10% of those “always” have pain and a further 30% “often” or “sometimes” do.
  • 69% of respondents suffer from anxiety.
  • 61% of respondents suffer from the blues (i.e., feeling sad and helpless); 30% experience it “sometimes,” while a further 23% deal with it “often”/“always.”

HOW ARE CANADIANS MANAGING THEIR CHRONIC PAIN TODAY? 

Unsurprisingly, over the counter (OTC) medication and/or licensed prescriptions are the first line of defense for many Canadians—in part due to the broad availability and overall familiarity with these types of products. 

Among the 51% of our 9,000-strong audience who suffer from chronic pain (or have someone close to them who does), almost a quarter manage it using OTC products, while a further 10% take prescribed medication for this purpose.

In terms of medication consumption, the vast majority of Caddle users (84%) are familiar with the benefits of OTC pain relievers, while almost 50% are likely to try new pain relief products. (Among those, Gen Zers in Quebec, Manitoba, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia are least likely to try new OTC pain products, while Baby Boomers in the Maritime provinces, Saskatchewan and Ontario are most likely.)

And, while only 4.4% of respondents identified cannabis as their method of choice for managing chronic pain, additional survey results indicate that nearly 20% of people would try edible cannabis products based on doctor referral.

Meanwhile, a simple Google Trends or Reddit search uncovers the fact that Canadians are increasingly interested in potential pain-relieving benefits of CBD-based products.

Note, especially, the uptick in searches for “CBD for pain” over the last few months—perhaps an indication of the co-existence of COVID-19 symptoms and consideration of CBD use for muscle aches and pains, or alternatively, reinforcing the use of CBD-based products for the secondary symptoms of chronic pain, such as anxiety and depression, which have been affecting more people under COVID lockdown.

HOW HAS COVID-19 AFFECTED PEOPLE SUFFERING WITH CHRONIC PAIN?

Issues around COVID-19 and chronic pain are beginning to intersect: We’ve learned that COVID-19 can infect just about anybody but is especially dangerous for older adults, young children, and people in marginalized communities. Chronic pain, too, is most common among older adults, children and adolescents, Canada’s Indigenous Peoples (including First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations) and other populations affected by social inequities and discrimination.

Not coincidentally, conditions like depression, anxiety and social isolation have been shown to cause chronic muscle aches and body pain. With the increased incidence of anxiety, depression and loneliness in Canadians due to the financial worry, employment impact and exposure to COVID-19, there’s a high likelihood that people across the country are feeling the effects of the pandemic, both mentally and physically. 

If a second wave of COVID hits Canadian communities (as it’s predicted to, in Fall 2020), there could be an interesting synchronization and likely exacerbation of people’s chronic pain and related conditions, especially among increasingly susceptible, older age groups and marginalized populations.

WHAT OTHER THINGS ARE RESPONDENTS DOING TO ALLEVIATE THEIR CHRONIC PAIN SYMPTOMS? 

Numerous sources, including the Canadian Pain Task Force, identify various pain management options beyond pharmaceutical interventions. These include modified diet and exercise plans. 

Our research bears this out, as the majority of Caddle users indicate they’re likely to take proactive steps towards improving their health, including 48% of respondents who are willing to exercise more often and an additional 31% who are willing to change their eating habits.

Breaking this down further, over a third of Caddle respondents agree that regular exercise is important to them, and it plays a “moderate” to “very large” role in 62% of respondents’ lives.

From a healthy eating perspective: We’ve seen that older generations are less likely to change their eating habits. What’s more, the Greatest Generation and Boomers tend to lag behind in their knowledge of diet regimens that can help in the management of chronic pain, such as anti-inflammatory diets. 

If older generations are, for the most part, uninterested in adapting their eating habits, and many will continue to medicate to manage their chronic pain, this could result in a nice boom for drug makers—especially those who are able to address the underlying conditions that cause chronic pain as well as the anxiety and depression that tend to plague patients with pain symptoms.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

CANADIANS ARE EAGER TO TRY “NEW” PAIN-RELIEF SOLUTIONS

Whether in the form of prescribed drugs or OTC products, doctor-recommended remedies are still #1 for more Canadians when it comes to managing chronic pain. 

Yet, at the same time, certain demographics are open to solutions that fall outside of the mainstream. Taking into account the 50% of respondents who are likely to try new pain-relief products, then, it makes sense that people with friends who consume cannabis products would be more likely to try these alternative solutions without a doctor’s referral.

As such, marketers will need to make a bigger push—and use authoritative data from medical professionals to back it up—if they’re going to see cannabis products pick up a greater share of the pain-relief market moving forward.

CBD PRODUCTS ARE DEVELOPING A MARKET IN PAIN MANAGEMENT

Though CBD isn’t without its own issues, all indications suggest that consumer interest is flourishing, and the category is only going to continue to grow in availability and consumer uptake.

As more cannabis-based products enter the Canadian marketplace, traditional OTC manufacturers will need to keep a keen eye on innovation—watching in-store planograms as well as new products being launched direct-to-consumer on sites like Amazon—to consider how they can stake a bigger claim in the cannabis-for-pain-relief arena. 

INCREASED ANXIETY DUE TO COVID-19 IS FUELLING CHRONIC PAIN (AND VICE VERSA)

Even if younger generations are much more likely to transition to a healthier diet and a more active lifestyle—both of which could lead to lower rates of chronic pain—they may still experience symptoms associated with the condition, especially under the unprecedented circumstances dictated by the ongoing COVID scare. 

Experiencing frequent feelings of fear, worry and anxiety can impact the body in real ways, contributing to muscle tension and pain. 

Marketers who are trying to relieve Canadians’ chronic pain struggles are best to pursue a holistic approach that considers how different generations are affected by both physical and psychological symptoms of pain and how those individuals prioritize the pain-relief options available to them.

COVID-19 Insights: Heightened Awareness of Health and Wellbeing Issues Prompt Better Exercise and Dietary Choices

Almost half of respondents prioritize healthy eating as a result of the pandemic

At a time of year when Canadians would typically be setting their sights on summer activities, for many people, it’s been difficult to look past the troubles that have been brought about by the COVID-10 pandemic. (Take, for instance, the finding that almost two-thirds of Caddle users are foregoing visits to the cottage this summer.) 

From vacation plans to shopping habits to food and drug consumption and beyond, COVID has affected just about every aspect of Canadians’ lives and has brought about heightened awareness of health issues—particularly in respondents’ eating and cooking habits, supplement use, and longer-term intentions for improving their overall health and wellbeing.

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HAS ANYTHING CHANGED ON THE HEALTH FRONT FOR CONCERNED CANADIANS?

At a high level, it’s safe to say that COVID-19’s ongoing progression (and ever-so-slowly flattening curve) in Canada has only served to increase consumers’ health concerns over time.

Among our 9,538 user–strong panel, three in five people agreed that they’ve become more concerned about their health in the last month.

Add in the fact that 46% of Caddle users have experienced a negative impact on their mental health as a result of COVID-19—extrapolating the effect that such psychological concerns may have on people’s physical wellbeing—and we believe that Canadians will continue to feel the health implications long after the curve has finally flattened. And that includes prolonged effects on people’s mental health.

Said agency health expert Richelle Colbear from Arrivals + Departures: “I think one shift we will continue to see is the increase in conversation around mental health. We will have to see how brands want to be a part of that conversation more.”

Yet, rest assured: we’re not going down without a fight! In fact, based on research from mid-May, almost three-quarters of Caddle users indicated they’re “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to take proactive steps towards improving their health. This is especially the case among older respondents, including Baby Boomers (77%) and the Greatest Generation (i.e., those born between 1900–45; 76%).

WHAT STEPS ARE CANADIANS WILLING TO TAKE TO IMPROVE THEIR HEALTH?

In that same study, we found that Caddle users are prioritizing two key activities in order to improve their health: exercise and food and supplement consumption. 

Specifically, nearly half of all respondents (48%) are willing to exercise more often. Meanwhile, 31% of Caddle users indicate a willingness to change their eating habits, and a further 8% will up their consumption of supplements to stay healthy during the pandemic.

Interestingly, while the Greatest Generation are most willing to amp up their exercise regimen, they’re least willing to adapt their eating. (Admittedly, this could be an indication of the practicality of adding more exercise and nutritious food to their daily patterns.)

Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these—exercise, eating and supplements—in turn.

HOW IS COVID-19 SHAPING EXERCISE HABITS?

While 37% of respondents across the country are concerned about their fitness levels amid social distancing protocols, 43% indicated that they’re maintaining the same level of exercise as before COVID-19 hit Canadian populations. (By comparison, 27% of respondents say they’re exercising “more”/“a little more” and 30% are exercising “a lot less”/“a little less.”)

Which segments are exercising most during the pandemic compared to pre-COVID? Gen Zers, for one, almost 40% of whom are “more”/“a little more” active now than before.

Yet, based on that same survey, it looks like the fitness equipment boom that retailers witnessed earlier in the spring may have come to an end: An equal percentage of Caddle users are “very unlikely” as “unsure” about purchasing new home exercise equipment (25.8% and 25%, respectively), while only marginally more users responded positively (“very likely”/”somewhat likely”).

Be that as it may, the athleisure market continues to excel in the face of the social distancing, with nearly 15% of Caddle users anticipating the purchase of leisurewear once stores finally re-open to the public.

With 69% of respondents indicating that they exercised at home before social distancing curtailed their movement, we can deduce that they’re either not willing to spend their hard-earned cash on what might be considered a non-essential fitness equipment purchase. Or, perhaps they’re already equipped well enough at home to keep up their exercise regimens.

Does this pattern tie into consumption behaviour during COVID-19? Let’s explore the influence of the pandemic on eating habits.

HOW IS COVID-19 SHAPING EATING HABITS?

Based on surveys conducted during mid-May, healthy eating has become more important for almost half of our 8,252 respondents as a result of the pandemic. This is especially the case among Gen Zers located in Saskatchewan (67%), Quebec (63%) and Ontario (61%). 

The question then is: Will increased interest in healthy eating extend beyond the pandemic?

Results indicate a resounding ‘yes,’ as almost three-quarters of Caddle users are interested in maintaining healthier eating habits post-COVID. This rises to 86% among respondents who placed greater importance on healthy eating during COVID.

What constitutes healthy eating for Caddle users? In short, a diet with fewer animal products and more fruits and vegetables. So, while 27% of respondents typically consume meat as part of any meal each week, 42% are interested in transitioning to a diet that includes less meat and dairy (Gen Zers are especially interested in going plant-based, at 51%). 

At the same time, almost half of respondents expect to consume fruits and vegetables every day of the week.

This is about the same rate of consumption as a year before, though more than a quarter of Caddle users indicate that they’re consuming more fruits and vegetables than this time last year—especially respondents in the Yukon (40%) and Gen Zers in all regions (35%).

Interestingly, this dovetails with an increasing trend for Caddle users to cook at home more often than before: 100% of respondents who were cooking 1–4 times per week pre-COVID now report cooking 6–7 times per week during the pandemic, and 83% of respondents who cooked 1–2 times per week now find themselves cooking more often at home than before. 

Now, with a significant proportion of Canadians opting for healthier food choices, we would expect to also see the same, if not greater, usage of supplements to keep diets as robust and healthful as possible.

Let’s go deeper into the statistics to see if this is the case.

HOW IMPORTANT ARE HEALTH SUPPLEMENTS TO CANADIANS?

Results from a daily survey on June 6th indicate that about 20% of respondents don’t consume dietary supplements. But, of the people who do, 16% expect to increase their consumption in the year ahead, while upwards of 58% expect to use the same amount.

Gen Zers in the Prairies are outliers in this regard: Manitobans expect to increase their supplement consumption by 56%, while dietary supplementation among Saskatchewanians is expected to see a 50% increase in the coming months.

WHAT FACTORS COME INTO PLAY IN CONSUMERS’ HEALTH PRODUCT PURCHASING DECISIONS?

Canadian shoppers’ values differ when it comes to their preferred health and wellness products:

While upwards of 46% of consumers agree that a health brand’s reputation plays a role in their purchasing decisions, 60% of those same Caddle users argue that private label SKUs are just as good as premium-brand health products.

At the same time, premium products don’t seem to sway consumer preferences: Respondents are equally as likely (35.6%) to try new products to improve upon their health concerns as they are unsure (37.3%). (The most likely to try new health and wellness products? Millennials. And the least likely? The Greatest Generation, who perhaps are hesitant to spend money on untested products.)

Health product consumption extends to cannabis-based products, too: Since the onset of the pandemic, cannabis users on the Caddle panel have reported a slight increase in consumption; just over 25% told us that their usage had increased, compared to about 16% who reported a decline in usage. 

When asked about the key factors that would prompt people to try CBD products, health benefits came out on top (at 30.7%), followed by doctor’s recommendation (at 20.1%).

This suggests that more Canadian consumers now look to cannabis-based products as an alternative but equally efficacious supplement that’s capable of improving their overall levels of health and wellbeing.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

COVID CONTINUES TO IMPACT CONSUMER WELLBEING (AND THAT’S AFFECTING PEOPLE’S EVERYDAY HABITS)  

Amid ongoing concern for their physical and psychological health—as COVID case numbers rise and fall daily across the country—the majority of Canadian consumers are taking proactive measures to improve their overall health and wellbeing. 

Whether they’re amping up their exercise regimens, seeking out more healthful food choices (including changing the composition of their diets and cooking at home more frequently), or enhancing their diets with health supplements, more Canadians are taking steps to look after themselves while continuing to social distance.

CANADIAN CONSUMERS ARE MAKING MORE HEALTHFUL FOOD CHOICES (AND IT’S EXPECTED TO STICK IN A POST-COVID WORLD)

With more shoppers now prioritizing product quality, freshness and “shop local” sourcing via farmers markets, it shouldn’t come as too big a surprise that Canadians are shifting away from predominantly animal-based meals and taking a greater interest in plant-rich diets. At the same time, they’re cooking more of their meals at home

While it’s unclear if cooking from home offers greater health benefits, or users are simply avoiding take-out or other meal solutions because of concerns over contamination (or for any number of other potential reasons), the retail sector can gain a stronger share of consumer budgets by catering to the at-home chef who’s looking for healthier food option, now and as COVID restrictions ease.

SUPPLEMENTATION IS A VIABLE METHOD OF MAINTAINING CONSUMERS’ HEALTH AND WELLBEING 

A reported 80% of Caddle users use dietary supplements, and that number is expected to increase in the year ahead—particularly among consumers in the Prairie provinces. And while the premium nature of some health and wellness products doesn’t seem to sway consumers into increased purchases, brand reputation does. 

This presents a novel opportunity for retailers and manufacturers alike to invest in strengthening the health and wellness claims on their products (both branded and private-label), to continue to drive consumer uptake through the tail end of the COVID pandemic and after.

COVID-19 Insights: Canadian COVID Concerns Rise as Stores Re-Open

52% express negativity about stores re-opening

With findings from mid-May indicating that COVID-19 has had a decidedly negative effect on Canadians mental health, we would expect to see shoppers eager to get back to their pre-pandemic ways of life—including heading back to brick-and-mortar stores to get their retail fix. 

However, data from our 10,000 daily survey respondents suggests that Canadian consumers are still wary of stores re-opening if there’s any lingering concern over a COVID-19 resurgence. 

And that hesitation continues to have an influence on Canadian consumers’ shopping habits, with a third of respondents expecting to use curb-side pick-up services even after stores have re-opened. 

Let’s dig into this week’s data in greater detail: 

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IS IT TOO SOON FOR STORES TO BE RE-OPENING?

Based on our research, more than half of Canadian consumers have negative sentiments about the loosening of store restrictions: Almost 50% of respondents overall indicated they are “nervous” or “anxious,” while a further 3.6% are “overwhelmed” by the thought of retailers re-opening their stores while there’s still a threat of a COVID-19 resurgence. 

In contrast, about 37% feel positive sentiments about retailers’ re-opening efforts.

These findings could be further indication of the negative impact that COVID has had on Canadians’ mental health. Yet, when we look deeper into this week’s results, it’s clear that other factors are at play as well.

WHAT’S HOLDING CONSUMERS BACK IN THE RETURN TO BRICK-AND-MORTAR RETAIL?

Cleanliness is one factor. In general, more than a quarter of respondents don’t trust retailers to keep high-touch surfaces clean.

Among these respondents, Millennials are least likely to trust retailers’ cleaning practices (28.5%), followed closely behind by Gen Zers (27%). Meanwhile, while Gen Xers (23%) and Baby Boomers (22%) are slightly more trusting overall. 

With some consumers still leery of getting back to shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, it leads us to consider whether consumers will continue to favour online shopping—and in particular, curb-side pick-up options—even after legislation allows for progressive store re-opening.

WILL CONSUMERS STILL USE CURB-SIDE PICK-UP AFTER STORES RE-OPEN?

Based on our research, a significant portion of shoppers are satisfied with their curb-side pick-up experience, with 35% of Caddle respondents indicating that their most recent experience was “excellent” or “above average.” (Interestingly, New Brunswickers,  Newfoundlanders and Labradorians skew even higher in their interest in curb-side pick-up, at almost 42% each.) 

Yet, even so, consumers seem divided on whether they expect to use curb-side pick-up services after stores ease restrictions: About a third of respondents overall agreed that they would, while a slightly larger segment (36%) admitted that they were uncertain.

Among these respondents, Millennials are most likely to continue to use curb-side pick-up (38%), while Gen Zers and the Greatest Gen (born between 1900–45) are least likely (at 41% and 39%, respectively).

WHAT WOULD LEAD SHOPPERS TO ADOPT CURB-SIDE PICK-UP OVER THE LONG TERM?

Faced with obstacles when using curb-side pick-up—including long wait times, lack of order accuracy, and length of time between placing and picking up orders—Caddle users identified several factors that come into influence their decision-making around using curb-side pick-up instead of online purchasing with delivery.

From delivery charges tacked on to digital orders (33%) and expected delivery time (25%) to inconsistent products being made available via the different services (almost 20%), it’s clear that retailers have an opportunity here to give consumers more of what they want from their shopping journey, whether that involves delivery to their homes, curb-side pick-up, or buy-online-pick-up-instore (BOPIS) as restrictions ease on brick-and-mortar visits.

If that’s the case, then, we’d expect to see increased consumer willingness to support retailers who are working harder to provide a better customer experience. Indeed, this extends to other pain points that consumers experience from click-and-collect and curb-side pick-up. 

Take, for example, the product assortment available to shoppers during the COVID-19 lockdown: A quarter of respondents indicated that they’re unwilling to forgive brands who are producing more single-use plastic due to the pandemic’s safety precautions. (Quebecers are the least forgiving, at 35%, while respondents in the Maritime provinces and Canada’s northern territories are most forgiving.) 

Further, product and service quality can be hit and miss with curb-side pick-up, which might explain why such factors as quality and the “shop local” trend each influence about 35% of Caddle respondents to shop at farmers markets, where “farm-to-table” freshness and seasonality are prioritized.

The question then is: What are the implications of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on non-essential purchases?

HOW HAS THE PANDEMIC AFFECTED NON-ESSENTIAL PRODUCT PURCHASES?

According to our research, 50% of respondents have been forced to abandon a non-essential purchase due to COVID-19, and only 34% of those respondents who abandoned a non-essential purchase put that money in savings, while almost 25% plan to save the money until the purchase becomes available in the future.

With almost 72% of non-essential purchases coming in at an average of $0–300, we can conclude that retailers should expect a reasonable windfall of discretionary purchases to take place once consumers feel confident that the pandemic is firmly under control and stores begin to open up more broadly across the marketplace. (This is further supported by our findings from May 8, 2020, wherein 31% of respondents across our 9,273-strong sample indicated that they were planning an online shopping spree over the next month.)

KEY TAKEAWAYS

CANADIAN CONSUMERS ARE DIVIDED ON THEIR PREFERRED SHOPPING EXPERIENCE AS COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS EASE 

Not all consumers are ready to head back to brick-and-mortar stores—especially those who have concerns about retailers’ abilities to keep surfaces clean during a potential resurgence of the pandemic. 

A sizeable swath of Canadian consumers have taken up curb-side pick-up in place of in-store shopping, and a third of those shoppers expect to use curb-side pick-up even after stores begin to re-open—suggesting that retailers will need to be hypervigilant about delivering as many positive customer experiences as possible to keep consumers shopping in their stores, whether online or, as restrictions ease, in-store.

TRADITIONAL BRICK-AND-MORTAR RETAILERS CAN LEARN FROM LOCAL SELLERS

Shoppers who prioritize product quality, freshness and “shop local” sourcing are supporting farmers markets with greater frequency. 

Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers can take a page from farmers markets’ playbooks, by prioritizing the quality and availability of their products and services, while also working to keep prices down (including delivery charges) and using less single-use plastics while doing so. 

SOME NON-ESSENTIAL PURCHASES ARE BEING DEFERRED, BUT THEY’RE NOT NECESSARILY BEING CANCELLED FOREVER

Though a significant number of consumers have had to abandon non-essential purchases because of the pandemic, the dollars they would have spent aren’t necessarily going away for good. Instead, Canadian consumers have deferred those purchases—which means that retailers may see a return of non-essential purchases, as stores open up and greater product assortment hits shelves in the months to come.