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Recent Consumer Habits Online and In-Person

Since March of 2020, the lives of most North Americans have drastically changed. It started with panic-buying toilet paper and has transformed into the mass digitization of our work, personal, social, and private lives. Doctor consultations and therapy sessions are now available online, along with buying groceries, household amenities, and workout equipment. As pandemic restrictions forced consumers to adapt to new shopping methods, consumers forced businesses to respond to new trends and needs in the marketplace.

Decline in Consumption

While some industries boomed, others saw consumer spending plummet to unsustainable levels. With lockdowns taking place across North America, in-person shopping establishments and travel services were struggling to stay afloat without life-preserving customer demand.

  • 80% less international travel and related tourism spending.
  • 15% overall decline in consumption in the U.S.
  • 60% of U.S. consumers are visiting physical stores less than before the pandemic.

Source: Harvard Business Review, “How E-Commerce Fits into Retail’s Post-Pandemic Future,” May 11, 2021.

New Ways to Shop

Unprecedented times mean unprecedented shopping methods. The global pandemic has permanently changed the way consumers are buying everything, from medicine to cars.

  • 43% shop more often online for products they would have previously bought in stores.
  • 37% of U.S. consumers will buy online and pick up in store more often in the future.
  • 51% of global consumers are willing to try Augmented/Virtual Reality to assess products.

Source: Harvard Business Review, “How E-Commerce Fits into Retail’s Post-Pandemic Future,” May 11, 2021.

Source: NielsenIQ, “3 Holiday Shopping Experience Trends,” September 22, 2021.

What Consumers Are Spending Their Money On

Being stuck at home brought on trends of self-reflecting and self-improving. Whether it was redesigning a kitchen or a career path, big changes required big purchases by many people seeking retail rejuvenation.

  • Sales for products such as hand sanitizers, gloves, and masks grew more than 800% over the first ten weeks of 2020.
  • Global spending on wearable devices to total $81.5 billion in 2021.
  • 28% of consumers invested in amenities such as home theatres, gyms, or studios.
  • Toilet paper and over-the-counter drugs for flu, cold, and pain also flew off the online shelves, with sales jumping by 231% and 217% respectively.
  • U.S. sales for home improvement products have increased by 13% in early March, compared to about a year ago.

Source: NielsenIQ, “An inside look into the 2021 global consumer health and wellness revolution,” October 28, 2021.

Source: McKinsey, “Emerging consumer trends in a post COVID 19 world.” 

Source: Oberlo, “10 Online Shopping Statistics You Need to Know In 2021,” June 20, 2021.

What Consumers Want

An upwards trend in health-consciousness has influenced what consumers want to see from the companies they support, and has changed where they spend their money in order to show that support.

  • In February 2021, 29% of consumers said they prioritize affordability; 27% said health; 17% said society; 16% said planet; and 11% said experience.

Source: EY, “Future Consumer Index Cycle 6: How a year of pandemic changed consumers,” March 17, 2021. 

How Consumers Are Shopping Online

E-commerce may solve many of the problems of in-store shopping, but it comes with its own set of challenges. Gone are the long queues of door-crasher sales, but, in their place, we find shipping fees, service fees, small order fees, and handling fees. Again and again, consumers pay for the price of convenience.

  • 46% of online shoppers have failed to complete a purchase online because there were too many options to choose from.
  • 49% of cart abandonments are due to high extra costs, which can include anything from shipping to taxes and fees.
  • 62% of online buyers shop at least once per month, 26% of online shoppers shop online once a week, and 3% claim to shop once a day.
  • Digital and mobile wallets are the preferred payment method among online shoppers worldwide. 44.5% of online shoppers paid using this method.

Source: Oberlo, “10 Online Shopping Statistics You Need to Know In 2021,” June 20, 2021.

Most people’s goals after the first quarter of 2020 narrowed to just getting by through the rest of the year. Among the climbing infection rates, falling employment rates, and people trying to work and learn at home, there wasn’t a lot of room for big aspirations for the future. When 2021 came around with no end to crammed hospitals or stay-at-home orders in sight, the concept of a fresh start in 2022 seemed farther away than ever. But in the middle of what was forecast as the worst recession since the Great Depression, our societies adapted. Shopping, working, and learning all became remotely available and, largely, we made the best out of it, purchasing things to improve our homes and ourselves and changing the way business is done forever.

Selina Barker | Contributing Writer

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