6 Things Retailers Need to Know About How COVID-19 Has Impacted Consumers’ Online Shopping Behavior
Dotcom Distribution’s annual e-commerce consumer study took an interesting turn this year. Historically, the study explores online shoppers’ evolving behavior pertaining to various areas, including purchasing, packaging, shipping, returns, omnichannel, and sustainability. That remains true; however, because the initial survey data was collected prior to COVID-19-related shutdowns, an additional round of data was collected in April 2020 (“mid-COVID-19 survey”) to appropriately gauge how the pandemic is impacting consumers’ online shopping behavior. In total, more than 1,500 U.S. online shoppers with household incomes of at least $75,000 were surveyed.
The data revealed that the effects of the pandemic present specific opportunities for retailers to attract consumers. Here are six pandemic-related takeaways from this year’s data. Keep in mind that mid-COVID-19 survey respondents were instructed to disregard purchases of groceries, medicine, cleaning supplies, and similar essential items throughout the survey.
1. Necessity, savings, boredom, and charity are driving online sales during pandemic.
- Fifty-eight percent of online shoppers reported purchasing items online that they normally would in-store (again, excluding groceries, medicine, cleaning supplies and similar essential items).
- Twenty-six percent of online shoppers reported making more online purchases out of boredom.
- Twenty-four percent of respondents reported making purchases because of great deals.
- Thirteen percent of respondents reported making a point to purchase products that support charitable initiatives.
2. Younger consumers present a big opportunity for retailers and brands.
Across nearly every topic addressed, in both pre- and mid-COVID-19 data, 18-29-year-olds proved to be the most exploratory, willing, and likely to rise to the occasion when given the opportunity to spend more money shopping online. This group’s reported purchase behavior and intent indicated significant marketing opportunities for relevant brands and retailers.
- Where 24 percent of all respondents reported making purchases because of great deals, this was true of 35 percent of the 18-29 age group.
- Eighteen to 29-year-olds reported an increase in online shopping during the pandemic more than any other age group (65 percent).
- Thirty-one percent of all respondents reported buying directly from brands when making purchases they would normally make on Amazon.com during the company’s reduction in shipping non-essential items, compared to 43 percent of 18-29-year-olds.
3. Top five categories consumers reported purchasing more online since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S.
- Home Goods (45 percent)
- Clothing (29 percent)
- Electronics (25 percent)
- Beauty/cosmetics (22 percent)
- Accessories (20 percent)
4. Even disregarding groceries, medicine, cleaning supplies and similar essential items, consumers reported doing more online shopping since COVID-19 limited shopping in physical stores.
- Fifty-one percent of consumers reported they have done more online shopping than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Women reported doing more online shopping during the pandemic than men did (54 percent of women surveyed compared to 49 percent of men)
- Younger consumers more often reported an increase in online shopping during the pandemic; this trend declined as age advanced: 64 percent of 18-29-year-olds; 56 percent of 30-44-year-olds; 48 percent of 45-60-year-olds; 39 percent of shoppers over 60.
5. Online shoppers mostly relied on major retailers, but showed local businesses love, too.
In place of shopping on Amazon during its reduction in shipping non-essential items:
- 65 percent of respondents reported purchasing from major retailers;
- 35 percent reported supporting local businesses (consumers over 60 most frequently reported doing so); and
- 31 percent reported purchasing directly from brands.
6. Most consumers expect online shopping frequency to remain unchanged or increase post-pandemic.
- Forty-five percent of online shoppers don’t expect their shopping habits to change long term.
- In the long term, 31 percent of shoppers expect to make more online purchases than they did before COVID-19.
Having launched Dotcom Distribution in 2000, just as the dot-com bubble burst, which was followed immediately by 9/11, I can confidently say the e-commerce industry hasn't faced a more transformational period than the COVID-19 pandemic. The objective of our annual e-commerce consumer survey is to examine how the online consumer and landscape are evolving to provide brands and retailers with data they can put into action. Now more than ever, this research should be used by retailers as a guide to troubleshoot challenges and harness opportunities for better customer communication, engagement and loyalty.
To download a free copy of the full study, click here.
Maria Haggerty is CEO and one of the original founders of Dotcom Distribution, a premier provider of B-to-C and B-to-B fulfillment and distribution services.
Related story: Managing Inventory in the Age of Coronavirus
Maria Haggerty is CEO and one of the original founders of Dotcom Distribution, a premier provider of B2C and B2B fulfillment and distribution services. She received her Bachelor of Business Administration from University of Houston, C.T. Bauer College of Business with a concentration in Accounting. Maria plays an integral role in developing and defining all aspects of the business, including sales and marketing, operations, finance and IT. As CEO, she is responsible for providing strategic leadership, establishing long range goals, and developing strategies for the senior leadership team. Maria has developed the systemic and procedural infrastructure necessary to provide timely and accurate analysis of budgets, financial reports and financial trends in order to assist the Board, senior executives and clients in performing their responsibilities while achieving favorable results. She works closely with the leadership team to enhance, develop, and enforce procedures that will improve the overall operation and effectiveness of the corporation. During her tenure at the Dotcom, Maria has developed an environment of continual improvement by supporting the Senior Leadership Team and their department managers on continuous process, space labor, automation, and financial best practices. Prior to founding Dotcom, Maria was a CPA at Arthur Andersen and was later the CFO of GoodTimes Home Video where she helped grow the company’s distribution business. When Maria is not in the office, she enjoys traveling around the world and practicing her photography skills.