Pandemic Buying Habits That Are Here to Stay

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When we think of commerce in 2020, the line between online shopping and in-person one is very thin. The COVID-19 crisis has shown that eCommerce can evolve faster than expected. Stay-at-home orders as a result of COVID-19 have expedited the process for many long-established bricks-and-mortar businesses to provide complete end-to-end online experiences. Buying habits has changed.

Buying habits

Experiences such as picking a wedding dress or grocery shopping that are believed to be uncommon for online shoppers are now standard and no exception. The pandemic buying habits are a lot different than “the normal life” ones we were used to.

Lets for example take grocery shopping. In an article, written in march, we talked about pandemic buyers and the FMCG. Has our prediction come to life? For sure, yes. 

Human-to-human interactions have been integral to the grocery industry because of the significance of real feel and touch of the goods. People like to try before they buy, especially when it comes to fruits, vegetables and essential products for the household. Now shoppers have access to things such as at-home supermarkets, where you can buy everything you need online, and we’re seeing the traditional market experience become less of the go-to.

But what are the exact pandemic buying habits and are they here to stay?


The consumer trends defining 2020—and their long-term effects

Perhaps more surprising than any individual shift is the evidence that these emerging trends are here to stay: a good example is that Kaufland supermarket increased their online sales with 200% in just the first 3 month after the start of their eCommerce shop.

What does this mean for you as a business owner? Here, we’ll dig into the data and explore four consumer trends spurred by the pandemic, why they’ll have staying power, and how you can successfully adapt your business in 2020 and beyond.

1. Increase in online shopping

Lockdown orders across Europe saw many retail stores close temporarily or indefinitely, while others scrambled to shift to an online-only strategy. The unexpected effects of the pandemic has forced buyers to do the same – change their habits.

Most of the biggest supermarkets have opened an online one and buyers are more than happy. For some, online purchases became the safer option—and their preferred choice—even as stores have reopened. Pandemic makes all of them uncomfortable and worried to shop in person and that is just a plus for online retailers;

Research made by Shopify shows that in total, 83% of buyers said they made at least one online purchase during the first three months of the pandemic.

Of those, 60% said they shopped online more in that period versus the beginning of the year, and 6% did so for the first time ever.

The most interesting fact is that most of the buyers are planning to make online shopping their number one option. Even as many countries began to reopen, shopping online remains the preferred choice—and, with improved delivery and pickup options, the more convenient choice, too.

Our insights:

Online shopping for some was an emergency measure to save their business and not the main revenue stream. However, consider making it a permanent part of your strategy.

The line here is very obvious – the crisis provided the perfect sandbox in which to experiment with new sales channels and delivery options. How did you fare? What can you learn from customer’s feedback to improve your online experience?

Our diamond in the corona is the ParkMart supermarket. Located in Varna eCommerce store is the perfect example of emergency measure that is here to stay and all that because of the shift of buying habits. The company has an unmeasurable success and not only saved their business, but also increased revenue, too. 

40% of buyers said an easy-to-navigate website made their online shopping experience a positive one. Within product pages, clear photos, accurate descriptions, and personalized shopping experiences—such as fit guides, tailored recommendations, and quizzes—can help customers make informed purchases when they can’t visit you in person.


2. Support for local and independent businesses

If a global pandemic has inspired anything positive, it’s a sense of togetherness. Communities everywhere have stepped up to close the social distance and provide support to the most vulnerable.

Another phenomenon is the increased support for small, local businesses that have been hit hard by lockdown restrictions. More than half of the Europeans said that they want to support the small shops and communities even more than before. The pandemic filled people with solidarity and care for others. And it is obvious even in the shopping field.

Our insights:

Before the pandemic most of the people’s choice was price not quality. Now it is different. Customers said they made purchases from local, independently owned businesses since the pandemic started. The phenomenon of choosing locally and more quality goods is here to stay.

Even elderly people said they specifically seek out local, independently owned businesses to support. The most supportive group is the parents of school-aged children, 64% said they are likely to seek out small businesses in their communities. 

We, as professionals in eCommerce, believe that customers plan to buy from local and independent retailers six months from now. That is a huge transition versus post-pandemic data. That signals this trend is not only here to stay, it’s actually picking up steam.


3. Demand for curbside pickup

Curbside pickup has been a lifeline for countless businesses, from grocery stores to vet clinics. It offers many benefits to buyers, too, being a convenient way to get items same-day without stepping in-store or paying for rush shipping costs—something that’s especially helpful for single parents or those with mobility issues. These are just a few reasons why most buyers selected curbside pickup for online purchases in the first three months of the pandemic.  

In short, ensure the experience is simple, efficient, and convenient. And communicate clearly through onsite signage and throughout every touchpoint (confirmation email, text message, etc.) to make the pickup experience seamless.

4. Appetite for local delivery

In lockstep with curbside pickup, local delivery has increased in popularity as an alternative to shipping or in-store shopping. 

Carriers were also impacted by the pandemic. This shifted the buying habits to wanting local deliveries as fast as possible. Brands such as FoodPanda or TaxiMe have taken their own measures to get products in the hands of the customers. This has been especially critical for items normally unfit for postal mail, like perishables. 

The demand for local deliveries has helped brands like eBag to sell more and increase their business in time of uncertainty. The Bulgarian eCommerce supermarket now sells not only in Sofia but also in Plovdiv and has their own daily deliveries trucks to supply households with essential goods every day.

We personally believe this pandemic buying habits will stay for a long time, especially helping small businesses and stores.

What is the new normality?

None of us could have predicted what 2020 would bring and how it will change us. Though unexpected, the pandemic started a shift in buying habits that was already happening. Businesses that will survive a global pandemic are those willing to adapt to changing times—and meet buyers where they are. Companies such as FoodPanda and eBag that understand customers’ needs and adapt innovative features to meet them, they will shine.

Times of difficulty are great drivers of change, of innovation and there are so many good initiatives being started up around the globe. We’re certain that in a post-lockdown world many of these changes will persist. The innovation being driven across the world is contributing to defining our new normal. A new, improved normal. eCommerce and pandemic buying habits that will last longer than expected.