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03/15/2021

Harris Poll: Pandemic shopping habits will remain as life returns to ‘normal’

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
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Eight in 10 American consumers plan to shop online in some fashion, even when the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end, a “staggering” statistic that reflects how far the digital acceleration of e-commerce has migrated across all demographics, geographies and industries.

That’s according to a Harris Poll report titled, The Great Awakening: A Year in the Life in the Pandemicwhich examines the most impactful changes to American society and business over the last 12 months and what it means going forward. While 47% of Americans miss the experience of shopping in-store, 77% say they are satisfied with online shopping.  

The Harris Poll report comes as vaccinations rise while cases fall, and nearly half of all Americans (45%) are confident that life in the United States will soon "return to normal". The COVID-19 vaccine seems to be having an immediate impact on future spending with 53% of consumers and 61% of households over $100,000 claiming the vaccine rollout has had at least "some influence" on how much they plan to spend in the coming months. Thirty-percent of those households say they plan to spend more compared to last spring, and 28% plan to spend more compared to this winter. 

While hope is on the horizon, Americans will carry certain pandemic shopping behaviors forward. Sixty-four percent of shoppers seem to prefer the "no contact" method of purchasing, saying they plan to continue to use less cash — and 48% don't want to touch cash anymore. To ensure consumer safety, 63% support businesses using a ''vaccine passport'' in which a customer would be required to show they received a COVID-19 vaccine or a recent negative COVID-19 test in order to do activities such as fly on a plane or attend a major league sporting event.

The increased optimism also points to an American economy that may be better suited to quickly transition from crisis to recovery thanks in part to a digitally-adapted American consumer who has relied on e-commerce to get basic essentials during the pandemic, and the rapid technological innovations made by business to meet their changing needs.

Looking across industries, healthcare is among the top three industries rated for doing the best job at digitally adapting their products and services, followed by grocery, then food and beverage. The biggest opportunity is for businesses in the travel/hospitality, airline, and real estate industries who have lower ratings likely because consumers have yet to return in full.

"One year into the global pandemic, as we emerge from the crisis, one trend that won't snap back or slow down is the massive acceleration of digital transformation," said Mark Penn, chairman of The Harris Poll and president of The Stagwell Group and CEO of MDC Partners. "Digital has gone from the 'next generation' to the only generation, as Americans' online lives are here to stay. That provides a massive opportunity for marketers as we find ourselves on the edge of a great consumer resurgence."

To download the full report, visit here.