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Understanding Customer Buying Behavior During COVID-19

Article - 3 Min. Read

COVID-19 changed the way consumers shop—but e-commerce is on the rise, and consumers are ready to spend their hard-earned dollars. Explore the latest trends and learn how to prepare for the future.

Two women shopping, both wearing masks, carrying bags, and looking at one of their mobile phones.

As COVID-19 continues to change the way we do business, e-commerce professionals must stay up to speed on customers’ shifting behaviors and habits. For many brands, it can be difficult to tell which consumer shopping trends are here to stay, and which will be fleeting. In short, uncertainty is still driving many e-commerce decisions—for consumers and businesses alike.

One thing, however, has remained constant since the beginning of the pandemic: the surge in e-commerce sales.[1] Read on to further explore how shopping and e-commerce have evolved—and what to expect going forward.

Consumers Are Shopping—and Spending—More

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted consumers’ shopping behavior—both in terms of how much money they’re spending and where they’re spending it.[2] In fact, consumers are actually shopping more often; about half of consumers are spending more online than they were pre-COVID.[3]

49% of consumers say they are spending more money shopping online than they were before COVID-19.[4]

What exactly are they buying? In 2021, e-commerce consumers spent more on books, music, videos and electronics.[5] E-commerce in general is also expected to grow by 13.7% this year, reaching $908.73 billion.[6]

Consumers are also being more selective in where they spend their money, with more than two-thirds of them saying the pandemic has made them more conscious consumers.[7] In fact, 65% are now supporting small or local businesses whenever possible, and 39% are researching brands’ practices and values to ensure they align with their own values.[8]

Looking Ahead at Shopping and E-Commerce Trends

With the future remaining uncertain, it’s more important than ever for businesses to improve their processes and keep abreast of consumer trends. In many cases, this may mean adjusting strategies and operations to better meet customer expectations, needs and concerns.

Looking ahead, a few common themes emerge. While growth in e-commerce will continue to outstrip in-store sales, customers report still wanting to shop in brick-and-mortar stores, with store-based sales bouncing back to prepandemic levels over the course of 2021 and 2022.[9] To meet both online and in-person shopping needs, it’s crucial to create a well-connected, personalized omnichannel experience that speaks directly to customer preferences and needs.

Following a spike in 2020, sales from businesses with e-commerce and brick-and-mortar operations are expected to continue growing faster than sales from strictly e-commerce businesses.[10]

Big-budget purchases are on the horizon for many consumers as they begin to spend more on travel,[11] furniture,[12] and home improvement.[13] They’re also buying homes, with total existing-home sales up by 5.6% in 2020.[14]

Key Takeaway

As consumers begin to adjust to “the new normal,” spending is rebounding following a dip in sales during the beginning of the pandemic, when many consumers were living more frugally.

Now, as new variants emerge and the months ahead remain uncertain, e-commerce businesses must look to the data to help guide their decision-making and create a convenient and seamless customer experience.

  1. [1]Fareeha Ali, former director of Editorial and Research, “Charts: How the coronavirus is changing ecommerce,” Digital Commerce 360, Feb. 15, 2021.
  2. [2]Akrur Barua, “A spring in consumers’ steps: Americans prepare to get back to their spending ways,” Deloitte Insights, June 2021.
  3. [3]Blake Morgan, “50 Stats About Post-Covid Consumers,”, July 6, 2020.
  4. [4]Ibid.
  5. [5]Blake Droesch, “US Ecommerce by Category 2021,” Insider Intelligence, April 27, 2021.
  6. [6]Ibid.
  7. [7]“Most Americans Say Pandemic Has Made Them More Conscious Consumers,” Shopkick, March 16, 2021.
  8. [8]Ibid.
  9. [9]“E-Commerce in the US,” Euromonitor International, February 2021.
  10. [10]Sara Lebow, “Multichannel ecommerce sales pick up speed over nonstore retailers,” Insider Intelligence, July 27, 2021.
  11. [11]Amy Danise, “Travel Trends: Americans Spending More On Trips Than Pre-Covid,” Forbes Advisor, Aug. 10, 2021.
  12. [12]Greg Petro, “Post-COVID Consumer Behavior: Like It Never Happened?”, April 2, 2021.
  13. [13]Tamara E. Holmes, “Pandemic a Factor in Increased Home Improvement Spending,” ValuePenguin, Nov. 30, 2020.
  14. [14]Michael Hyman, “December 2020 Existing Home Sales Annual Pace Rises to 6.76 Million,” National Association of Realtors, Jan. 22, 2021.

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