COVID-related Changes in Shopping Behavior

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The COVID pandemic has had obvious impacts on consumer behavior over the past six months. But “what” specifically has changed, and “how persistent” will these changes be after the pandemic subsides? In BCE’s most recent consumer tracking study, we asked a representative group of U.S. consumers to reflect on both questions:

Here are a few observations from this analysis:

    • COVID has accelerated the shift to digital channels (60% of consumers indicate they’re ordering online MORE since the pandemic began)
    • In the process of shifting to e-commerce channels, 36% of consumers are buying items online that they’ve never purchased online before
    • Physical retail remains important to these evolving channel behaviors, though, as “buy online, pick up in store” activity is also on the rise for 34% of consumers
    • Importantly, between one third and fully one half of consumers expect they’ll continue these behaviors even after the pandemic subsides

It is worth noting there is a smaller group of consumers who have become more discerning in their approach to shopping, investing more time and energy into product research before they buy, and seeking deals/discounts to convert.

Given these insights, what are some of the implications for brands competing in the consumer sector today?

    1. It has never been more important to understand the role that e-commerce plays in fulfilling the needs of your customers

    2. Brands that are well-positioned to meet this surge in online demand are in an ideal position to steal, grow, and defend share

    3. Consumer economy sectors and brands within them that have traditionally been protected from this online sales shift (e.g. auto industry) are likely to face more channel disruption in the months and years ahead


Walter Shepard

Walter Shepard

Principal, Yarmouth

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