The global pandemic continues to cause shifts in consumer behaviors, priorities and needs. While the “panic buying” frenzy experienced this spring may have subsided, brands and retailers must continue to prioritize analyzing consumer first-party data, trends and behaviors to connect with audiences at scale, create customer loyalty and drive sales as COVID-19 persists.
The Pandemic Began With A Demand For “Essential Items” & At-Home Products
At the start of COVID-19 and coinciding lockdowns, consumers exercised a level of “panic buying” that many brands and retailers had never seen before — shopping for items deemed “essential” for current living conditions. Rather than prioritizing discretionary categories like travel, entertainment and restaurants, consumers scoured the shelves for toilet paper and CPG items, invested in at-home fitness products and relied on meal kits for cooking. A deep appreciation for hardware stores for their home project offerings also came about at the start of the pandemic and has remained consistent during the past eight months. “Throughout the pandemic, we have seen a rise in ‘homebody’ goods with consumers staying at home,” said Cindy Liu, eMarketer senior forecasting analyst at Insider Intelligence. “Categories like at-home fitness, computers and gaming systems, home goods, and DIY home improvement are benefiting from this trend.”
A March survey from the American Association of Advertising Agencies polled adult internet users to identify which products consumers were planning to buy as a result of the pandemic. The results revealed the following areas as products of interest, representing consumer purchasing priorities:
- 84% of consumers were prioritizing food
- 72% of consumers were prioritizing household items
- 25% of consumers were prioritizing toys and/or arts and crafts
- 17% of consumers planned to purchase at-home renovation supplies
As the pandemic nears its eighth month, consumers’ shopping priorities are once again shifting, with many product categories bouncing back after months of uncertainty.
Where Do Consumers Shopping Priorities Lie Today?
With many lockdown restrictions evolving across the country and the need to “panic buy” dwindling, consumer spending has picked back up, opening the door for select categories to get back in the game. According to eMarketer reporter Rimma Kats, categories including “toys and hobby, furniture and home goods, and consumer electronics” have all seen an uptick in sales. As a result, eMarketer now predicts a 2-4% increase in these categories, noting that this shift is “a significant change from our previous forecast in which declines were anticipated across the board.” So while many consumers are venturing back out into “normal” life, this increased interest in products like at-home entertainment and homegoods reflects that consumers are still investing money into creating an enjoyable at-home experience.
“One of the pandemic's most surprising outcomes has been the resilience of the consumer economy,” Liu said. “We’ve seen certain categories bounce back much more quickly than previously anticipated.”
As consumers enter the height of the holiday season, brands are likely to see this shift in shopping priorities grow even further. For example, as digital promotional events began in October, many retailers reported an increase in similar categories. Home improvement stores, for example, gained a 19% year over year (YOY) spike in sales, while “toys and games, electronics and sporting goods retailers also received a significant bump,” according to recent Deloitte research.
Ecommerce Continues To Be Hot For Nearly All Retail Categories
The appeal of seamless, convenient ecommerce offerings continues to grow among consumers across nearly every product category. Since April, online transactions have consistently grown by 88% (on average) every month, according to financial-data firm Facteus. Similarly, an October Intouch Insight survey revealed that since the beginning of COVID-19, 54% of consumers said their time spent online shopping has risen. Today, consumers continue to prioritize companies which leverage their ecommerce platforms, with recent research from Pitney Bowes Inc. and Morning Consult revealing “45% of consumers do more than half of their current shopping online — nearly three times pre-pandemic.”
The importance of understanding consumers’ evolving habits is key to the success of retailers and brands looking to connect with audiences during the pandemic, busy holiday season and into 2021. By tracking and consistently analyzing consumer first-party data, brands can effectively stay on top of the trends and changing behaviors of their audiences and create lookalike audiences. Remaining committed to evaluating consumer data empowers brands to better resonate with consumers. Additionally, by understanding the latest shopping patterns of consumers, brands and retailers have an increased opportunity to engage and convert new audiences, establish customer loyalty and drive sales well beyond the pandemic.
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