Consumers expected to turn to cold and flu products over coronavirus fears

The start of 2020 has been defined by Coronavirus, which to date has killed over 1,000 people and impacted the lives of thousands more.

Yamina Tsalamlal, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData comments: “There are similarities to be drawn between 2003’s SARS outbreak and the current endemic gripping the world. From the consumer perspective, there are two main changes in the world since 2003: neither Twitter nor Facebook had been invented and China wasn’t the behemoth economy it is now. 

“Today, social media is ubiquitous in our purchasing behavior, with 58% of consumers in the US interested in products trending on social media*. Social media is also where a lot of consumers are getting their Coronavirus news, with topics ranging from the online debate that it was linked to the Corona beer to users in China posting pics of their lives while in quarantine.

“As the disease continues to trend across the web, consumers will begin searching for products they can purchase to help protect themselves. India’s leading soap brand Lifebuoy received a lot of positive press as it posted the names of competitor products as a goodwill gesture to educate the population on how to prevent the illness. This could be an example for US brands.”

Around 64% of consumers in the US say they proactively seek out products to improve their health – 5% higher than the North American average of 59%**.  There are not currently any brands present in the US that are associating their name with Coronavirus prevention, however, social media is awash with recommendations and precautions.

Tsalamlal continues: “As it is already cold and flu season and many of the symptoms are similar, there will likely be a surge in the purchases of products traditionally associated with the season such as vitamin C, cold and flu medication, hand sanitizers, cleaning products and cough drops.

“There has been some hysteria that products from China are infected or that meat is the cause. Currently, there have not been any official announcements. At this time, US consumers need access to accurate information rather than online hysteria. Experts, for instance, are cautioning that running to buy a face mask isn’t necessary at this point in the US.”

GlobalData is tracking Coronavirus’ social media presence and influence, and currently, the most common keywords to sprout across the internet are related to healthcare. However, as the illness spreads globally, consumers’ hyperconnected lifestyles can lead to the spreading of misinformation. Think of how sales of Corona beer dropped simply because the brand name sounds similar to the disease.

Tsalamlal adds: “Companies should be aware of these issues, and actively work in tandem with government bodies to ensure a cohesive and informed message is delivered to the wider population in terms of how to stay safe and prevent the spread of the virus.

Sources: *GlobalData Global Consumer Survey Q3 2019. ** GlobalData Global Consumer Survey Q3 2019

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