How Has COVID Affected Online Consumer Behavior?


The COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated a paradigm shift in consumer sentiment and behaviors. For marketers across all industries, these changes necessitate a shift towards data-driven digital marketing. There’s a lot of emerging information about these changing consumer behavior and this should guide your marketing approach post-COVID-19.

This post explores some effects of COVID-19 on online shopping behavior and how data on these changes can shape your new marketing approach in the emerging marketing landscape.

 1. Shift to Digital

The online market is the biggest beneficiary of the restrictions caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. By mid-April, U.S. retailers’ online year-over-year (YoY) revenue growth was up 68% fueled by shifting consumer shopping behavior towards digital. This digital revolution cuts across all industries.

A survey by Deloitte reported a surge in digital sales growth by 18% in Q1 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. There was also a surge in desktop and social traffic.


2. A Shift Towards Value and Essentials

One of the lasting impressions of the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic was toilet paper’s panic buying. There were reports of consumers across the globe stockpiling toilet paper.

While this panic buying phenomenon fizzled out with time, it gave way to a subtle change in shoppers’ behavior. Today, research shows more people moving away from luxury purchases instead of focusing on essential items that add value to their lives.


3. Shattering of Brand Loyalty

During the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers’ lives have changed drastically. From worsening financial situations, changing priorities to shopping behavior, the ground has shifted significantly. Amidst these changes, consumers have started switching brands at an unprecedented pace.

Stay-at-home orders, store closures, better online prices, and local stores’ reliability are some of the factors attributable to this shock on loyalty.


4. Growth of at-home Economy

COVID-19 has grounded most Americans and while most states have relaxed the stay-at-home orders, consumers are still reluctant to go out. Target consumers are now spending more at-home time on domestic activities, media, and news.

Out-of-home activities haven’t picked up yet and with soaring cases of COVID-19 across the country, this trend will likely continue. This trend has boosted online activity, including shopping and entertainment, with focus on products that improve at-home living. For instance, Netflix saw 16 million sign-ups during the lockdown.


5. Change in Holiday Spending

One of the biggest losers from the COVID-19 pandemic is the global travel industry. In the U.S, holiday spending on travel is no longer a priority amidst the shocks caused by the global crisis. In the week ending October 24, 2020, travel spending reflected a 44% drop below 2019’s levels (only $12.5 billion). The numbers paint a $9.7 billion loss.

The outlook for holiday shopping is also not great though most consumers say they will now shop online. This offers an opportunity for retailers hard-hit by the pandemic to recoup some of their losses.

What Are the Lessons for Marketers?

As a marketer, you have to leverage data from across all platforms, both internally and externally, to rebuild your marketing strategy. Most studies indicate these shifting consumer behaviors will continue into the COVID-19 recovery period. Some like the flight to digital and shift towards value are abound to persist in a post-COVID-19 normal.

Refocus on Consumer Engagement

You have to re-evaluate your understanding of the consumers post COVID-19. A third of consumers plan to re-evaluate what they value most and this could change your engagement. Start leveraging first- and third-party data, redraw consumer personas, listen more and personalize your customer engagement strategies.

Agility in Adapting to Change

There’s need to adapt fast to shifting consumer behaviors and sentiments. This calls for a rapid shift in your digital marketing strategy while also speeding up your messaging to customers and employees across multiple channels.

Virtualized Sales and Solutions

The flight to digital makes e-commerce the only viable option if you want better marketing ROI. You have to mix new sales channels, leverage marketing automation solutions, enhance your e-commerce capabilities, and data-driven optimization. Attribution experts have become more critical than before with advances in multi-touch marketing campaigns.

Harnessing Existing Structures to Drive Growth

With COVID-19 limiting capabilities for research and development, you have to innovate and get value from your existing portfolios. Continue leveraging analytics for a better insight to drive product strategy and harness the power of virtualization of your products and services.

Prioritize Digital Journeys and New Ways to Engage and Experience

You have to re-evaluate your customers’ digital journey and optimize it by identifying pain points and resolving them. Data comes in handy in your reassessment processes and the analysis and findings will drive new ideas for customers to engage and experience your products and services.

A New Approach to Customer Service

To enhance service delivery, build remote and online services to serve your customers. These include self-service kits and accompanying content, remote service delivery and other virtual solutions.

Optimize Last-mile Delivery Solutions

For products that need physical delivery, you have to optimize your last-mile delivery solutions.

Embrace Data-driven Reaction to Changing Consumer Behavior

Digital marketers have to stay in the know about shifting consumer behavior to respond with appropriate marketing tactics quickly. By relying on data, it becomes easier to make on-the-fly decisions and changes to your marketing strategy.

Wrapping Up

The global COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated some irreversible changes in consumer habits, spending behaviors, attitudes, values and consumption patterns. By leveraging relevant data, you can stay ahead of your target customers to deliver the best experience even in this volatile business environment.

In this emerging new normal, data is at the core of any business recovery efforts. At ONE12th, we’re rising to the challenge by reinventing how we meet your data-driven digital marketing needs.

Contact us today and let’s help you rebuild your marketing strategy post-COVID-19.


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