Global insights agency SKIM recently conducted pricing research to determine the differences in consumer preferences and price sensitivities before and during the COVID-19 crisis. The agency which specializes in decision behavior re-fielded large pricing studies in Europe and the United States. The newly fielded studies explored changing price elasticities and sought to answer four questions:

• Have price elasticities changed during COVID-19 and how?
• Are consumers making purchase decisions differently now?
• How does price sensitivity vary across categories and countries?
• Should brands conduct pricing research now or delay?

“As experts in pricing and revenue management strategies, we have received many questions around changing price elasticities and whether brands should conduct pricing research now,” said Robin de Rooij, Director Pricing and Revenue Management Solutions at SKIM. “As we strongly believe in a data-driven approach to our recommendations, we decided to re-run a collection of pricing studies. This research helps us provide practical and evidence-based advice for companies that are adapting pricing strategies following COVID-19.”

A summary of the survey results is available at skimgroup.com/covid.

The meta-analysis combined eight pricing studies across CPG (consumer packaged goods) categories covering 87 consumables & non-consumable brands in the U.S. and Europe. The original studies were fielded between December 2019 and March 7, 2020, before the COVID crisis shut down economies and triggered shelter-in-place policies throughout Europe and North America. The re-fielded studies were conducted during the first three weeks of April 2020 using SKIM’s Virtual Shelf research solution. A choice-based-conjoint research methodology was used for the analysis.

The April 2020 research revealed:

·        32% decline in sensitivity for brands dominant in larger packages. Overall, consumer price sensitivity remains consistent across categories (pre-COVID-19 vs. April 2020). Consumers are less sensitive to price changes in large packs and more sensitive to price changes in smaller ones.

·        99% correlation between the base cases: Shoppers tend to remain loyal to favored brands. “Of course, this brand loyalty during the crisis assumes that products are available on the shelf,” explained Krasimira Mladenova, Director, North America, who led the U.S. pricing re-run. “As long as the products are available, consumer’ brand preferences remained fairly consistent up to this point.”

·        13% relative growth of larger packages: There is a consistent shift to larger pack sizes across categories. “We found the shift to larger packs to be even more prominent in Europe, especially in the dairy category,” said Stefan Ammerlaan, Senior Director, EMEA, who led the European research.

As the market continues to evolve and a recession looms, brands considering pricing or portfolio research should keep feeding scenarios with data. Whereas before COVID-19 you might have been able to base decisions on a one-off check, the shelf life of old pricing research will be much shorter. Consumer consumption and their “willingness to pay” for certain products and services can change from one day to the next depending on lockdown restrictions, travel bans, news, and economic conditions.