Survey: Delta variant will fuel holiday e-commerce boom

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
Dan Berthiaume profile picture
Holiday shoppers may go online due to the Delta variant of COVID-19.

For the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic may drive many holiday shoppers online.

The latest BOXpoll consumer survey from Pitney Bowes Inc. highlights the significant impact of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus on consumer shopping behaviors ahead of the 2021 peak shopping season.

To determine how consumers were responding to changes in COVID-19 restrictions and guidance related to the emergence of the Delta variant, Pitney Bowes examined whether and how much consumers were reverting to being cautious and wary about shopping amid possible health risks. Results of a May 2021 BoxPOLL indicated consumers were optimistic about the pandemic and planned to increase spending.

[Read more: Survey: Younger consumers to lead charge in increased spending this summer]

Results of the new BOXpoll show that one in 3 respondents will start shopping more online (19% increase from May). In addition, one in four respondents will start shopping less in person (16% increase from May). Four in 10 (41%) respondents expect to be shopping more online this holiday season compared to their current shopping habits.

The survey also reveals that consumer sentiment toward the Delta variant is not consistent across generations. Millennials are the most cautious, with nearly one in three millennial respondents saying they would shop less in person (28%), and nearly half saying they will shop more online (46%) due to the Delta variant. That is a near 20% increase since May for both figures, the highest of any age group.

“For the first time last year, online was consumers’ favorite holiday shopping destination,” said Gregg Zegras, executive VP and president, global e-commerce at Pitney Bowes. “As we enter this year’s peak season amid the surge of the Delta variant, our data shows that consumers are defaulting back to their new comfort zone. All of us in this industry should expect a peak not unlike 2020. To avoid disappointing customers, retailers should schedule promotions earlier to pull forward demand and lower risk by diversifying their carrier mix.”

The survey also examined how the Delta variant is impacting the workforce and how that may influence shopping behavior. In recent months, many major U.S. corporations have delayed return-to-office plans until 2022, causing employees to continue remote work practices.

One in 3 respondents (the largest proportion of employed consumers) expect to work remotely most often. Gen Z respondents expect to work in an office most often. One in four baby boomer respondents and one in five GenX respondents hold a job where remote work is not possible, which Pitney Bowes says puts a slightly lower ceiling on how shopping behavior impacts among consumers in these generations.

According to Pitney Bowes, this continuing work-from-home trend will require store shopping trips to become more intentional. With more people continuing to work from home, the company expects that retailers will experience greater adoption of online shopping.

BOXpoll by Pitney Bowes is a weekly consumer survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of Pitney Bowes among a national sample of more than 2,000 online shoppers. Results cited in this article are extracted from surveys conducted over the past month.