How COVID-19 Has Changed Consumer Behavior

The spread of COVID-19 across the U.S. and Canada has significantly affected both brick-and-mortar and online retailers. Of course, it has also impacted everyday shoppers.

To find out how much, Wiser Solutions surveyed more than 2,200 consumers in the U.S. and Canada during the first half of April 2020. Here is what they said.

How Much Has COVID-19 Changed Their Lifestyles?

First, we wanted to broadly understand whether the spread of the virus forced people to change their daily lives. Overwhelmingly, 74 percent said the virus had a somewhat significant or significant impact on their lifestyle. Only 7 percent said it had no impact or little impact.

Furthermore, 90 percent of the survey respondents noted that COVID-19 has caused them to spend more time at home. Overall, the average consumer has changed their behavior due to the virus and stopped going out in public as much as they had before its spread.

90% of the survey respondents noted that COVID-19 has caused them to spend more time at home.

Has COVID-19 Affected Their Shopping Habits?

Second, we were wondering whether COVID-19 had changed how people spent their money. Were they more likely to shop online? Had they spent their money on different items than before?

Before we dive into that data, we quickly checked to see how our survey group shopped pre-COVID-19. The vast majority, nearly 80 percent, bought from a mix of brick-and-mortar and online retailers. Only 16 percent conducted only in-store shopping compared to just 5 percent who did online only.

Out of that, just 46 percent of the 2,200-plus respondents said they spent more money online shopping than before COVID-19. The remainder either spent the same amount or less money. Moreover, out of the 46 percent who spent more money, the majority—nearly 70 percent—spent it in the food and beverage category.

Other categories that received increased spending were:

  • Home goods and furnishings – 34 percent
  • Apparel – 31 percent
  • Consumer electronics – 23 percent
  • Building and home supply – 20 percent
  • Sporting goods and exercise equipment – 12 percent

Importantly, we asked whether COVID-19 caused them to buy a product online that they would have purchased in-store if the virus had not spread across the U.S. and Canada. The response was 55 percent yes to 45 percent no.

70% of survey respondents spent more money in the food and beverage category.

Are Different Retailers Getting More Business?

Finally, we were curious whether these changes in consumer behavior also affected retailers. Specifically, whether shoppers were buying from their preferred retailers from before COVID-19 or whether the pandemic caused them to shop at new stores.

Overwhelmingly, 94 percent of the 2,200-plus survey respondents said they shopped at mostly the same retailers as before. That leaves just 6 percent who have switched up their store loyalties. Out of that small group, retailers who earned new business included Amazon, Kohl’s, Home Depot, Target, and Walmart.

Overall, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the average consumer. They are staying at home more and spending a little bit more money and time shopping online. However, the switch from in-store shopping to online shopping hasn’t been that big, but one category reigns supreme: food and beverage.

Interested in more? Check out more Wiser survey data on eCommerce shipping preferences or read about how COVID-19 has forced retailers to change prices.

Matt Ellsworth

Matt is the Sr. Manager, Marketing & Demand at Wiser, the leading provider of actionable data for better decisions.

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