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Vaccination doesn’t equate to automatic consumer confidence, NielsenIQ finds

With staggered vaccine dissemination will come staggered confidence.

The varied global availability of shots combined with the reluctance among some to get vaccinated will prove to be an immediate challenge for countries, businesses and brands. Scott McKenzie, global head of the NielsenIQ Intelligence Unit, shares the latest global research.

The logistics of supplying Covid-19 vaccinations to the world’s population is the latest phase in global efforts to combat the deadly disease. Each country appears to have different tactics, timelines, and challenges, but one thing is clear: the path to defeating the disease will take time.

But the timelines will not just be governed by the availability of vaccines. As millions clamor for a return to their pre-coronavirus lives, millions more may be slowing the process. A new study undertaken by NielsenIQ’s Customized Intelligence team shows significant levels of skepticism in some countries around taking the vaccines. Across the 15 countries included in the study, 36% of consumers say they would take the vaccine immediately, 41% say they would wait some time, 12% say they would not take the vaccine at all, and a further 11 percent are undecided.

In the United States, 29% say they would adopt a wait and see attitude on whether to take the vaccine; meaningful numbers of consumers also told us they are undecided or not going to take a vaccine at all. Sobering news for governments and industries hoping the vaccine would enable a powering up of the economy.

It appears some of the habits we learned during these months of lockdown will stick around, at least for a while. More than half of consumers in our study, conducted in December, say they lacked the confidence to dine out even with the rollout of vaccines. Even more expressed concern about attending live sporting events or overseas travel this year. Given this news, it may not be surprising that we see almost half of respondents telling us they lack confidence in their personal financial situations even when they have complete clarity on the timing for personally receiving the vaccine.

We also looked at splits in the data that point to a widening wealth gap. Through 2020, we identified evidence in every country that the pandemic had caused the wealth divide to grow. Two distinct groups of consumers were identified by our team: constrained consumers (those whose income or financial situation has been impacted by the pandemic) and insulated consumers (those whose income has not been impacted). In this latest round of exploration, we see no signs of the gap between these groups getting smaller, at least in the near term. There is evidence within both cohorts that large numbers of them will take any ‘spare‘ cash and put it into savings or investments, rather than spend it more freely.

So, if 2021 is beginning with optimism thanks to the arrival of vaccines, there is clearly still work to do in identifying the levers that need to be pulled to unlock spending. In 2020, one of the common denominators we saw was the way in which consumers responded to Covid-19. Clear, leading indicators could be taken from countries further along in the ‘coronavirus journey‘ or able to suppress it more successfully than others — New Zealand, and Taiwan are good examples. But different timelines, vaccine types and country infrastructures may mean there is less common ground to be found in consumer behavior this year.

The disease was indiscriminate in choosing its victims, but the deployment of vaccines is being conducted in a more structured way. As a consequence, we should expect different age groups and demographics to respond differently. Returns of confidence are likely to be staggered accordingly.

For brands examining how to tackle this consumer environment, health will continue to be top of mind — recognizing the associated needs and concerns in product and advertising campaigns will be critical. People will need help in understanding how to safely and confidently prioritize their lives as they emerge from lockdowns. Brands who get in the middle of this dynamic stand to have a better chance at reserving a place in the minds of consumers as we travel from the beginning of the year to a (hopefully) brighter back end of the year.

Scott McKenzie is the global head of the NielsenIQ Intelligence Unit

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