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As the global population has endured the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 20 months, consumers have altered their daily lives and routines in many ways. From the abrupt shutdown of non-essential businesses, schools, and stores, consumers have had little choice but to adapt how they sourced everything from necessities such as food and household products, to home goods, clothing, and more.

Research conducted by Appriss Retail reveals unique shopping trends that emerged through various phases of the pandemic shifted as they migrated through three key stages of the health crisis underscoring how shopper’s needs, emotions, and behaviors evolved.

Stage 1: React (March 2020 to May 2020)

The early days of the pandemic saw fear-induced panic buying of items, such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies. To meet their core need of ensuring safety for themselves and their families, consumers purchased these essential items in large quantities and began hoarding them due to concerns of limited supply and store closures.

As consumers began working from home and replacing in-person social events with online video-based socialization, discretionary purchases shifted to support a more casual, family- and home-based lifestyle. Ecommerce sales increased dramatically vs. the prior year for select product categories — especially casual clothing (yoga pants, bras, sleepwear, sweatpants, and flip-flops); arts & crafts supplies; and sporting goods (bikes, home exercise equipment, and paddle sports).

Stage 2: Cope (Aug 2020 to Sept 2020)

During this stage, consumers sought ways to create new, safe, routines while living with restrictions as many businesses were operating remotely, with limited hours or access, or closed altogether. While spending a greater share of time at home, many consumers tackled DIY home and garden projects accelerating growth in purchases of paint, lumber, and outdoor furniture.

While many retailers have been eagerly welcoming consumers back, shoppers continue to use ecommerce as they shift to blending both online an in-store shopping— true omnichannel behavior.

Other shoppers showed increased demand for home exercise equipment and items for outdoor hobbies. Notably, personal grooming came back in vogue as shoppers stocked up on shaving products. After face masks, leggings (especially black leggings) were the most purchased item, likely both as a staple of a work-from-home wardrobe and exercise attire.

Stage 3: Adapt (Jan 2021 to present)

With vaccines rolling out, consumers during this current phase are staying comfortable as they forge their new reality. While many retailers have been eagerly welcoming consumers back, shoppers continue to use ecommerce as they shift to blending both online an in-store shopping— true omnichannel behavior. Casual comfort is still a priority as sweatpants and gray gripper socks were among the most purchased apparel items. Yet, elevated shopping activity reflects an eagerness to return to social activity and priorities with sales of jewelry, fragrance, and handbags increasing year over year in this period.

Bottom Line —Shopper Priorities and Habits Have Changed

Omnichannel shopping is here to stay.

Through the pandemic cycle, consumers have embraced the convenience and efficiency of online shopping. Simultaneously they value accessibility to brick-and-mortar stores to pick-up items, browse, check out merchandise, and make returns or exchanges. However, they expect a fluid, frictionless, experience when transitioning from online to a brick-and-mortar store.

As of May of 2020, two-thirds (66%) of global consumers were omnichannel shoppers, including 40% of whom used ecommerce for the first time in the prior 60 days.

Consumer preference for picking up items they ordered online at the store—either curbside or inside the store—grew by 26% from September 2019 to September 2020. Thus, retailers with a robust ecommerce presence and streamlined opportunities for consumers to buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) or-buy-online-return-in-store (BORIS) will be better positioned to attract and retain shopper traffic and loyalty for consumers who prefer these options.

Dramatic Shift to Omnichannel Shopping



Carrie Cassidy, Director, Marketing, Appriss Retail

A technology advocate for more than 25 years, Carrie makes information about advanced data analytics solutions accessible to retail professionals through a variety of media. She has written numerous white papers, case studies, and articles for a variety of industries ranging from motion control to human resources.

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