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Alter Agents New Study: Year-Long Trends Surrounding Consumer Fear and Anxiety Examined

“A company’s success isn’t just measured in dollars or stock price anymore: it’s measured by how that company builds its internal culture and acts within its community,” says the new Alter Agent’s research series that started in 2019. The final edition of the series “Facing Fear: Overcoming Consumer Anxiety” explores consumers’ minds to understand how a momentous period of change has affected us, what the new landscape looks like, and where we can go from here. Here’s what it revealed.

The Working Methodology

The survey was based on three online surveys among U.S. adults:

  • Wave 1 —  1,302 respondents surveyed in November 2019 and January 2020
  • Wave 2 — 1,303 respondents surveyed in June 2020
  • Wave 3 — 1,325 respondents surveyed in November 2020

Alter Agents oversampled among minority groups in order to better represent the views of people of color in aggregated data, and also interviewed experts in economics, political science, and mental health to help contextualize the findings and inform the analysis.

Key Research Findings

By comparing today’s data with findings from both before and mid-pandemic, the new paper gives in-depth analysis and unique perspective on the powerful forces driving consumer fear and anxiety. By exploring how top concerns have shifted, both in topic and intensity, among consumer groups, brands can start to build a foundation for understanding their changing audiences.

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  • The worsening public health situation is taking a severe toll on Americans. Pandemic-related sentiment has nowhere to go but up, provided that vaccination efforts improve on current performance.
  • The COVID Economy exacerbated existing socioeconomic disparities. Even rougher days are likely ahead, and further stimulus efforts are needed for the rebuilding effort.
  • Americans have found strength and silver linings through this adversity, seeking self-improvement and discovering anew their appreciation of family, community, and the struggles of others.
  • Rebuilding from this point is an all-of-society effort. Individuals, businesses, and governments have a shared interest and responsibility to learn from the struggles of today and past years in order to move forward.

The report’s key highlights include:

  • 44% of respondents consider healthcare as one of their “top three” areas of concern, a number which has risen with each wave of the study.
  • 47% of Hispanic respondents report experiencing higher levels of stress as a result of the pandemic, up from 31% last June.
  • Financial confidence is falling, especially among households with an annual income of less than $75,000.
  • 75% of Americans, across the political spectrum, agree that the political system is “in need of significant reform.”
  • Majorities of Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans are now more likely to say that their country is doing enough to address racial injustice than they were last June.
  • Parents are still feeling uneven amounts of stress, with 44% of moms saying they’re under more stress, while 31% of dads say the same.

“It is fascinating to compare data from three waves of this study, and see how the concerns and challenges have shifted under the strain of our global crisis,” said Rebecca Brooks, CEO of Alter Agents. “The forces driving consumer anxiety aren’t surprising. What is interesting is how these challenges have widened the gaps among Americans, and how certain fears have intensified, while others have been assuaged. We’ve also seen a glimmer of optimism and strength among Americans as they uncover silver linings through this adversity.”

Securing Position for Future

Citing the brands’ inability to reject the customer trauma experience and the need to set up and exhibit the kind of social leadership that people need, the report suggests the following suggestions for brands to establish their best position:

  • Assembling creative, marketing, and product leaders to evaluate how your brand, its products, and messaging can address them.
  • Evaluating the employee experience so they are optimistic about their professional and personal future.
  • Talking to employees about what matters to them and help them understand how you care about the whole community.
  • Talking about the collective challenges with the customers.
  • Aligning every business aspect with the messaging you are putting forward.
  • Integrating empathy, solidarity, and hope into your organization’s messaging, mission, and operations.

Alter Agents will be discussing the findings in-depth during a two-part webinar series on February 11 and February 18 at 10 am PST/1 pm EST.

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