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Pelotons and Penny-Pinching: How COVID-19 pulled US consumers toward new extremes of splurging and saving

Of all the new, changed, or reinforced consumer behaviors COVID-19 has fostered, three stand out as major trends companies should consider in their marketing and innovation strategies:

  • Digitally enabled convenience;
  • Frugality and value seeking; and
  • Focus on health, well-being, and self-care.

Some of these preferences may conflict. For example, the digital convenience of online shopping may be more expensive due to delivery costs and conflict with frugality goals. Pursuing a healthy lifestyle—including diet, gym membership, exercise equipment, and more—can also be prohibitively costly.

The challenge and opportunity for companies is to innovate with novel solutions that address the full constellation of consumers’ needs, while preempting conflicts between priorities. This is true for telehealth, which addresses all three needs—digital convenience, self-care, and frugality—while walk-in clinics, another less expensive alternative to traditional health care, address the latter two.

Even as vaccines usher in the return to a more normal life, companies are likely to see consumer behaviors and priorities continue to adjust for a while until a new equilibrium establishes itself. For example, during the pandemic, shoppers may have been more willing to pay for online shopping. They also spent more time at home, which made receiving deliveries easy, preempting theft and storage issues. Spending more time at home has changed eating habits to more snacking.

Looking ahead, people may become more cautious about spending. And once they spend more time outside the home, commuting to work and school, they may alter their habits yet again. Among other behaviors, this may affect the online ordering of groceries, take-out meals, and other items, as well as eating, workout, and dressing habits. 

How can your company navigate—and leverage—this shifting terrain? Read our new report, Consumer Behaviors and Business Opportunities in the COVID-19 Era, for a complete road map.






Our Experts

Thought leaders who provide trusted insights for navigating companies and the economy though COVID-19.


Bart van Ark

Managing Director and Principal Investigator


Lynn Franco

Director, Economic Indicators and Surveys


Ataman Ozyildirim

Senior Director, Economics and Global Research Chair


Matteo Tonello

Managing Director, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)


Gad Levanon, PhD

Vice President, Labor Markets


David Hoffman

Senior Vice President Asia and Managing Director of the China Center for Economics & Business

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Rebecca L. Ray, PhD

Executive Vice President, Human Capital

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Anke Schrader

Research Director, the China Center for Economics and Business


Amy Lui Abel, PhD

Vice President, Human Capital Research


Thomas Singer

Principal Researcher


Dr. Uwe G. Schulte

Leader, Global Sustainability Centre and Program Director


Paul Washington

Executive Director, ESG Center


Ilaria Maselli

Senior Economist


Amanda Popiela

Researcher, Human Capital


Elizabeth Crofoot

Senior Economist


John Forsyth

Consumer Dynamics Leader, M&C Center


Cindy Cisneros

Vice President of Education Programs

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Steve Odland

President and CEO


Jeff Hoffman

Institute Leader, Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy, ESG Center


Joseph J. Minarik

Senior Vice President and Director of Research


Erik Lundh

Principal Economist


Robin Erickson, PhD

Principal Researcher, Human Capital


JP Kuehlwein

Marketing Leader, M&C Center


Denise Dahlhoff, PhD

Senior Researcher, Consumer Research

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Laura Sabattini, PhD

Principal Researcher, Human Capital

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Robert Schwarz

Senior Researcher, ESG Center


Chiqui Cartagena

Former Chief Marketing Officer & Center Leader, Marketing & Communications

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Dr. Mahdy Al Jazzaf

Executive Director


Devin O’Connor

Former Deputy Director, Economic Research



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