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Survey: How does COVID-19 affect shopping habits one year later?

Many of the consumer shopping trends which sprang up at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic are still having a large impact.

According to a new survey of more than 10,000 U.S. consumers from shopping rewards app Shopkick, 57% of respondents say the pandemic continues to impact how they shop. While this figure is down from 76% of respondents who said the pandemic was affecting how they shopped in a similar Shopkick survey from March 2020, nearly half (48%) of consumers report stocking up on essential products – a slight increase from 47% in 2020.

Similar to trends recorded in 2020, respondents who are stocking up on essentials favor product categories such as toiletries (90%), food and water (79%), cleaning supplies (76%), hand sanitizer (72%), medicine and medical items (53%), and pet supplies (34%). And while 56% of all respondents say they are spending about the same amount on essentials now compared to one year ago, 35% say they are actually spending more. 

More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents say the pandemic has made them more conscious consumers. Two-thirds (65%) are now supporting local or small businesses when possible, while four in 10 (39%) are researching companies’ values and practices to ensure they align with their personal beliefs. Smaller percentages are supporting more Black/Indigenous/people of color-owned businesses (11%), or foregoing online shopping (8%) and Amazon (8%) altogether. 

Other notable trends captured by the survey include:
•    Aisles finally looking fuller. In March 2020, nearly 100% of respondents noticed household essentials being out of stock on store shelves. That number has now shrunk to 77%. However, the hardest items to obtain still include pandemic essentials like cleaning supplies (77%), toiletries (66%), and hand sanitizer (48%).

•    Brand loyalty continues to waver. While 85% of respondents reported not caring about brand names in March 2020, the number a year later has decreased, yet remains relatively high compared to pre-pandemic trends. Now, 61% of respondents say brand names still do not matter when making their purchasing decisions.

•    Consumers continue to take precautions in-store. Eighty-six percent of respondents say they are taking safety precautions in-store, about the same as 85% who were doing so in 2020. The majority of respondents are disinfecting their hands and shopping carts (86%), using debit/credit cards to avoid handling cash (70%), using self-checkout (66%), and shopping at slower times (65%).

•    Online shopping picks up steam. One in two (51%) respondents say they are shopping online more frequently as compared to the start of the pandemic, with 84% planning to continue shopping online in the future. However, most respondents say high shipping costs (67%) and extended delivery dates (51%) caused by this uptick in popularity have led them to abandon online shopping carts in the past year.

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