With American life starting to feel more normal following two years radically altered by the pandemic, a majority of consumers have resumed their top weekly activities, according to a new consumer sentiment study. More Americans have returned to work, are on the roads, are shopping at brick-and-mortar stores and attending live events, all of which have positive implications for radio listening. For example, nine in 10 say they have resumed some normal activities and eight in ten say when they’re out in public, things feel more normal than last year.
The new numbers are from the eighth installment of Nielsen’s Consumer Sentiment Study series, fielded in March 2022 via a national online survey of 1,000 persons aged 18+.
When Nielsen launched the first such survey in the dark days of April 2020, it identified three distinct groups, each roughly equal in size: A “wait and see” group that isn’t ready to resume most normal activities; a “proceed with caution” contingent carefully preparing to resume some (but not all) normal activities; and a “ready to go” crowd that’s becoming less concerned about virus risk, and intends to resume most normal activities. Fast forward to March 2022 and the “wait and see” crowd has shrunk to 4% of respondents, “proceed with caution” represents 13% and the vast majority (83%) are “ready to go.”
Walking clients through the results during a webinar Wednesday, Bill Rose, Senior VP of Audio Customer Solutions at Nielsen said the data shows “a really remarkable recovery from where we were, not just at the peak of the pandemic during the lockdown, but even where we were just a year ago.”
Compared to April 2020, there has been a dramatic resurgence in the activities that people do on a weekly basis, like shopping for groceries in a store, driving their vehicle, and getting together in person with family and friends. “More people in cars and trucks means more radio listening. And these changes indicate that consumers are finding ways to adapt and continue the top activities they engage in despite the periodic setbacks we've had during the pandemic,” Rose explained.
The results look even more positive when zeroing in on audio listeners. On average radio listeners are 9% more likely to participate in these and other weekly activities and podcast listeners are 14% more likely.
“Radio listeners are actively engaged in shopping, driving, going out, dining in restaurants and getting out and about in the community. And we share some of that in common with people who are podcast listeners,” Rose added.
Meanwhile, employed persons are heading back to the workplace in large numbers. Nearly nine in ten employed persons (86%) have returned to the workplace after they stopped going in when COVID-19 started. That’s up from 82% in September 2021, 78% in March 2022 and 48% in April 2020. From an inverse view, workers stuck at home due to COVID-19 have declined by more than 70% since the lockdowns began in April 2020.
The pandemic caused many Americans to stop down and reassess their priorities, with some making choices to improve their lives. The new data show four in ten are looking for a new job this year or actively looking and interviewing. The high percentage helps explain why online employment services placed 100,000 spots on broadcast radio last week, aiming to reach these job seekers.
It is heavy radio and podcast listeners that are most likely to be new job seekers. Heavy radio listeners are 32% more likely to be thinking about looking for a new job this year and 17% more likely to be actively looking and interviewing.
The latest data shows those spending an hour or more a day in vehicles hit a new high in March. Thirty-nine percent of the total population and 69% of heavy radio listeners logged one hour-plus in a car or truck yesterday, up from 14% and 28%, respectively, in the lockdown month of April 2020.
The resumption of more normal behaviors means nearly twice the number of kids are going to in-person classes compared to a year ago – 73% in March 2022 compared to 30% one-year prior. Yet far more kids are being driven to school (59%) than are taking the school bus (36%). In another positive for radio, more than nine in ten say the radio is always (70%) or sometimes (22%) on.
Giving sales teams more ammo to show that their audiences are ahead of the curve in resuming pre-COVID behaviors, Nielsen finds that audio listeners are more willing to shop in stores, attend events, work in offices and get on planes.
Along with heading back into stores and attending events, radio listeners are more likely to take action-based on advertising than listeners to streaming audio services such as Spotify and Pandora. When asked about actions they have taken, if any, after hearing an ad on a given type of media, 21% of radio listeners said they did an online search to learn more about the product being advertised, 21% went to a website to learn more about it,18% talked to someone about the product, 13% went to a store to look for it and 8% purchased a product or subscribed/signed up for a service. In each case the percentages were higher than for streaming audio.
“Overall, it's a picture of an America that's adapted to the pandemic and most definitely reengaged in normal activities and shopping,” Rose concluded. “All of these are terrific results and an indication of an economy that is on the rebound.”