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New Data: Consumers Pandemic Online Shopping Behaviors Are Here to Stay

Riikka Söderlund Aug 17 2021 9 AM | 3 min read

The COVID-19 pandemic uprooted so much of our lives – most notably in how in-person experiences became nonexistent. It impacted our days at the office, our visits to the gym, vacations and holidays, and our shopping habits. As such, consumers flocked to social media platforms, e-commerce apps, streaming services and other digital platforms at staggering rates to cope with the (excuse the overused term) “new normal.”

The way consumers engage with brands has irrevocably changed. It’s also clear that this new appetite for online shopping poses both a challenge and an opportunity for brands to evolve their social media advertising strategies.

Working with Dynata, Smartly.io surveyed 1,000 U.S. adult consumers to explore new spending patterns, and to take a closer look at how the pandemic shifted sentiment towards brands and what they expect going forward. Here is what we found.

Consumers Are Staying Online – and Creating New Spend Categories

A staggering 87% of respondents said they plan to continue shopping online – even with re-openings and loosening COVID restrictions in play! This shows marketers and brands that many of the omnichannel tactics, like e-commerce and in-app purchases on social platforms, are resonating with shoppers, and signal a fundamental shift due to the pandemic. 

The shift to online contributed to other “new” shopping behaviors like impulse buying. In fact, 53% of respondents admitted that loosening COVID restrictions have inspired them to make up for lost time, and they’re buying items that they can use right now. 87% of respondents are impulse buying in specific categories like apparel and retail (59%), food and beverage (44%), travel and hospitality (39%), entertainment (39%), and more.

These findings show the pendulum swing brands may be anticipating for pre-pandemic times might not actually become a reality. New spending behaviors have emerged – and could be here for the long-haul.

Social Plays a Key Role in Path to Purchase

Smartphone screen times and platform usage skyrocketed over the last year and a half – unsurprisingly due to lockdowns and other COVID restrictions. While growth has tapered off, there is still a very active opportunity for brand engagement on social media.

In the past 30 days, four in 10 (38%) respondents reported making an online purchase, and 44% discovered a new product or brand based on a digital ad they saw on social media. These findings show how impactful social is in driving purchases and the key differentiator it’s become for brands looking to reach consumers where they are spending the most time.

Data Privacy and Transparency Has Become a Priority 

Despite this confident outlook on online shopping and product discovery through social advertising, consumers have become much more privacy conscious in the last year and a half. 85% of respondents said they prioritize their personal privacy data more than they did a year ago. Not only this, but an overwhelming majority of respondents (91%) report they would be more likely to purchase from a brand online if they feel that brand is trustworthy and has transparent data practices. 

Consumers are also paying more attention than ever to how companies share and collect their data. These findings show the future of social advertising is a winning combination of creativity, data and insights – with an ever-watchful eye toward privacy.

To view this latest research from Smartly.io, along with best practices for brands to engage consumers with social ads, click here:

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Author
Riikka Söderlund

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