Online Shopping

5 Ways Consumers Changed How They Shop

The last two years have changed every aspect of our lives, and shopping is no exception. The fear of going out and global lockdowns put online shopping at the forefront of retail. For millions, it became the only shopping option.

While the recent events pushed more people online than ever before, it also changed how consumers shopped for goods on the internet. In response, most business owners diverted their digital resources and eCommerce efforts. Now they are striving to meet the demands of online shoppers and improve online customer experience according to changing buying behaviors.

If you wonder how your customers have changed their behaviors to engage and convert more, here are the five ways consumers have changed how they shop online.

1. More Customers Are Shopping Online than Ever Before

In 2020 over 80% of consumers across the globe shopped online. According to estimates in a UNCTAD report in 2020, The dramatic rise in eCommerce amid movement restrictions increased online retail sales’ share of total retail sales from 16% to 19%.  

It’s not surprising that eCommerce became consumers’ escape when the real world became unsafe. While we’ve adjusted how we live and people have changed their attitudes and approach to shopping, many consumers choose to return to in-store shopping. Even so, the number of online shoppers and online purchases is expected to rise, and the increased use of digital shopping platforms is here to stay.

In a 2020 McKinsey consumer sentiment study, 91% of consumers said they’re likely to continue buying more items online in the future—and 52% said they’re very likely to do so.

2. Consumers are now shopping online more frequently.

A survey of about 3,700 respondents in nine emerging and developed economies demonstrates that the recent events have forever changed online shopping behaviors. It found that now more than half of the survey’s respondents shop online more frequently than before 2020.

What this means for your business is that now there’s a greater probability of your customers making more frequent purchases. Providing extra incentives to encourage repeat purchases is a common practice among retailers. One of the methods you can use to promote return customers is to provide free shipping for your loyal customers or an extra discount. Such methods can help your business experience longer-term gains by increasing the lifetime value of your customers.

3. Consumers are now spending less on their purchases and shopping more for essentials.

The UNCTAD and Netcomm Suisse eCommerce Association survey, jointly with the Brazilian Network Information Center ( and Inveon, shows that online monthly spending per shopper has dropped remarkably. In addition, consumers in both emerging and developed economies have deferred larger expenditures, with those in emerging economies focusing more on essentials.

After months of lockdown and job losses (more than 9.6 million U.S. workers lost their jobs), consumers have changed their spending habits. They have reprioritized what is essential and what they can hold off on purchasing.

During the first several months, most consumers shopped for hygiene products such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer online. Disposable gloves became the fastest-growing eCommerce category in March 2020, according to the statistics by Statista. After the first few months passed, the demand for necessity goods also declined. As of 2021, health and beauty continue to be one of the most popular categories consumers will keep buying even after things return to the status quo.

4. Demand for Online Grocery Shopping Keeps Rising

One of the most notable shifts in U.S. consumer behavior is the rising demand for online grocery shopping.

Now more than ever before, most people prefer ordering goods online without visiting physical stores, and that goes for groceries too. Since April 2020, grocery pick-up and delivery sales have hit five billion dollars per month, with non-perishable packaged foods being one of the leading grocery categories U.S. consumers kept buying online even as restrictions were lifted and life returned to normal. More than half of survey respondents also adopted online shopping for fresh and frozen foods and drinks. Moreover, consumers, particularly older generations, seem keen on buying groceries online in the future.

Around one-third of surveyed shoppers indicate a willingness to keep using Amazon Fresh or DoorDash to have food home delivered. The rising demand for grocery shopping also increased app downloads of online grocery delivery platforms like Uber Eats and Instacart.

5. Digital content powers the shopping journey.

Global online content consumption doubled in 2020. Considering consumers are now spending more time online than ever, it’s no wonder.

Online shopping is way more than just buying an item conveniently to receive it straight at your door. It’s also where the shopping decisions are made. If most shoppers prioritized essentials over other goods in early 2020, now they use the internet to power their digital buying journeys.

Those who decide to stay indoors and avoid in-store shopping during the holiday season will most likely also use the internet to determine what to buy for their loved ones. That’s why gift guides and content marketing are more crucial than ever before during this last holiday season and will continue to be relevant going into 2022.

Now shoppers will search not only for products to buy online but also for inspiration to fuel their online shopping experience. According to 2020 statistics, 70% of consumers bought from a brand after seeing a video on YouTube.


Because consumers and businesses have been rerouted to virtual reality, and the rising demand for online shopping is here to stay, digital marketing has also become requisite for all businesses worldwide. Online content will keep powering millions of shopping decisions of millions of consumers.

It’s beyond a shadow of a doubt that recent events have significantly impacted the eCommerce industry and online shopping behaviors across consumers. Had it lasted for only a few months, we would be talking about temporary changes. As for now, it’s been 21 months since this current event began and the crisis has already brought permanent changes in many industries, including eCommerce.

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