Are Americans keeping up with the COVID19 social distancing rules?

Washing hands; not touching your face; staying at home; schools, restaurants and gyms closed: just some of the tumultuous changes unthinkable only a few weeks ago.

Almost all Americans are impacted by COVID 19 ‘stay-at-home’ orders, and this is changing people’s behavior. Some changes are temporary, others are set to become permanent.

Here at Embee, we analysed how actual behavior has changed over this chaotic time to estimate what people are doing to adapt.

Embee’s behavioral data for tens of thousands of people reveals how the daily routines have changed. We examined some of the various aspects of life and reveal the unique patterns of change that are happening in real time.

We’ll look at three aspects of life and these are visits to:
1. Retail locations
2. Gyms/ fitness centres
3. Restaurants

To identify how behavior has changed for those three aspects since the start of COVID19, we took a sample of panelists who were active in the last two weeks of February and compared the behavior of the same individuals in the last two weeks of March. Data from over 45,000 panellists was used to analyse behavioural patterns to draw the conclusions below.

Retail outlets

Using location data to branded retail outlets, we have compared visits to retail outlets before and during Covid-19 ‘stay at home’ measures.

94% of people visited retail locations an average of 12.24 times for an average visit time of 43 minutes in the last 2 weeks of February, but in the last 2 weeks of March these were 93% for 39 minutes 9.54 times.

The incidence of people visiting retail locations did not change much from February to March 2020. Although people were as likely to go shopping at some point, the number of visits they made went down by 22% from average of just over 12 times a month to 9.5 times. As well as going less, people spent less time on each visit, suggesting that the trips were much more focused on functional shopping, rather than browsing. Average time spent in each shopping location dropped from 43 min to 39 min.

Older people / retirees, despite advice, were the only demographic group which made more trips to the shops on average. 93.9% of panelists aged 55+ went to a retail outlet in the last two weeks of February, whereas 94.6% of the same individuals went to a retail outlet in the last two weeks of March.

Gyms/fitness centers

Gym visits are an example of a totally optional activity. Many gyms were closed, or people just stopped going to fitness centres and this is evident from our data too. 52% drop February vs March in incidence of people visiting a gym.

3.3% of people visited retail locations an average of 1.69 times for an average visit time of 69 minutes in the last 2 weeks of February, but in the last 2 weeks of March these were 1.6% for 61 minutes 1.37 times.

But if we look at the number of visits in the last 2 weeks of February vs the last 2 weeks of March we see that those panelists that did continue going to the local gym only slightly reduced their number of visits. Another metric that we looked at is the average time people spent in the gym. Those people that continued visiting the gyms in March did not change their behavior much. They were still spending around an hour at each visit. Average time spent went down from 69 min to 61 min from February to March.

One of the biggest drops in gym visits was among the Asian Americans part of the US population. 5.9% of Asian Americans visited a gym in the last two weeks of February, but only 1.3% did in the last two weeks of March. On the other side of the scale, postgraduate-educated panelists who visited the gym in the last two weeks of February did that on average of 2.36 times in the 14-day period. In March, that figure was only slightly lower, at 2.20 times on average.

Restaurants

Finally, we looked at restaurant and food outlet visits.

84% of people visited retail locations an average of 4.04 times for an average visit time of 50.5 minutes in the last 2 weeks of February, but in the last 2 weeks of March these were 70% for 38.2 minutes 2.89 times.

Many more people avoided restaurants between February and March. Restaurants experienced by far the biggest drop in visitor numbers than any other category we observed. The number of people visiting restaurants at least once in the 14-day period went down from 83.6% to 69.7%, a drop of 23% From going nearly twice a week to a restaurant, people started going only 1.5 times on average. Time spent in the restaurants also shortened from 50 to 38 minutes. A further look at the data may show that people went to QSR more often than to full meal type of establishment.
Younger people and those with part-time work were in fact those that almost did not change their behavior in terms of restaurants visits. They were as likely to go to a restaurant in March as in February.

Lockdown stage

As we are nearing the same time period in April, we expect a dramatic change to those figures as a result of Covid 19 measures. Restaurants and gyms are completely closed in many states, most people have reduced their shopping visits to mostly essential trips.
As the end of the month is coming soon, we will gather the April data and update this post so we can do even more interesting comparison between February vs March vs April.

We will continue monitoring the change in behavioral patterns and will update this blog with April data in the beginning of May.

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To access the pre/post COVID-19 behavioral data, get real-time insights or historical data contact us at sales@embeemobile.com