While the implications of COVID-19 have only become apparent to the Australian public in the last few weeks, it has already had a major impact on both consumer and business sentiment. At the same time, Australians are being urged to keep one eye on the longer-term future. DBM’s Atlas research program tracks both consumer and business sentiment and, unsurprisingly, both indices hit new lows in March. We saw business sentiment tracking at zero or negative across all states (the index was lowest in QLD and dropped most in NSW). The biggest deterioration in consumer sentiment was for people working in the hospitality, retail and service sectors.
In the last week of March DBM also conducted standalone business and consumer studies surveying COVID-19 impacts and perceptions. Most consumers are concerned about the impact of the virus on the Australian economy (95%), and that others are not taking the pandemic seriously enough (94%). Concern in the Australian business community is also high with 70% of respondents (representing 1.4 million businesses) reporting that they are already negatively impacted by COVID-19. In addition to these top-line numbers, the data yielded a number of further insights:
Insight #1: The details of relief and support measures are struggling to “cut through” particularly in the current media landscape. Amongst business owners, 46% were knowledgeable about support being offered by Government while only 44% were aware of support from their financial provider. Only 32% of consumers were aware of relief packages being offered by banks.
Implications: DBM CEO Kipling Zubevich said of the measures: ‘As government agencies, banks, telcos and providers of essential services refine their relief programs, clear and effective communication will be critical. This is partly about raising awareness (so people know broadly what is on offer), but also about spelling out conditions and qualification criteria with accessible language.’
Insight #2: Some parts of the Australian economy are likely to remain strong and even prosper as they continue to deliver essential goods and services in a time of need. These segments will provide critical scaffolding for other sectors, effectively forming the “bedrock” of the new economy. While conditions have declined for most business owners (most notably in the retail, wholesale and manufacturing sectors), 30% are yet to experience negative impacts. Sentiment remained positive for sectors such as ‘healthcare & social assistance’ and ‘education & training’.
Implications: Mr Zubevich commented: ‘The needs of these “bedrock” organisations are likely to evolve in unexpected ways, and they will need their suppliers – and employees – to pivot quickly with them.Growth opportunities will exist for those suppliers who can adapt to – and even anticipate – the emerging needs of these “bedrock” organisations.’
Insight #3: While most expect a slow recovery, it’s possible that things could turn around quicker than anticipated. When it does come, the economic recovery could progress at an unprecedented pace – and some businesses may be caught out.
In March 2020, consumers and businesses were similarly pessimistic about the prospect of quick economic improvement; 68% of consumers and 74% of businesses believe it will take more than six months for the economy to show any signs of recovery. This is consistent with timeframes being discussed by federal and state governments.
Implications: Mr. Zubevich recommended that: ‘Business owners should do what they can to ensure their “hibernation” strategy allows for a fast start when conditions improve. First and foremost, this is about making full use of available relief measures – for example, JobKeeper will help you hold on to your team. It will also be important to watch for green shoots by staying in regular communication with both customers and suppliers.’
About The Data
Business and consumer sentiment data was collected from the DBM Atlas research program – the largest ongoing survey of Australian consumers and businesses, collecting over 80,000 responses annually on customers’ experiences with their banking, insurance, credit card, superannuation and wealth management institutions.
Coronavirus specific datapoints were collected using an offshoot sample of the DBM Atlas program, referencing data collected between March 25th-31st 2020. Consumers n=1021. Businesses n=200.
About DBM Consultants
DBM works with over 40 financial brands including Australia’s biggest, our research and data-empowered consulting philosophy is relied upon to benchmark the performance of Australia’s most successful organisations. DBM has a rich record of experience and expertise in consumer and business services across many industries, while specialising in financial services with the power of DBM Atlas – Australia’s most comprehensive financial services customer dataset.
The advisory power of DBM Atlas is delivered via our team of financial sector, CX, consumer insight, data science and analytics consultants.
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