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Most Americans Say Pandemic Has Made Them More Conscious Consumers

  • New Shopkick survey compares consumer behavior, concerns and spending habits over the past 12 months

One year ago, as COVID-19 lockdowns spread across the U.S., consumer anxiety was at an all-time high and 76 percent reported adjusting their shopping habits as a result. Now, one year later, most consumers (57 percent) say the pandemic continues to impact how they shop.

According to a new Shopkick survey, the events of the past year resulted in significant changes in shopping behavior. For example, 68 percent of Americans claim the pandemic has made them more conscious consumers. Many are now supporting local or small businesses when possible (65 percent) and researching companies’ values and practices to ensure they align with their personal beliefs (39 percent), while others are supporting more BIPOC-owned businesses (11 percent) or foregoing online shopping (8 percent) and Amazon (8 percent) altogether.

In an ongoing effort to support retail and brand partners with fresh insights, Shopkick, a leading shopping rewards app, surveyed more than 10,000 consumers across the country between March 5-7, 2021 to uncover current consumer behaviors and trends. The survey addressed in-store health precautions, ethical trends, channel preferences and more, and the findings have been compared to Shopkick’s March 2020 report.

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Key Findings:

  • Americans still stocking up on the essentials. One year into the pandemic, nearly half (48 percent) of consumers report still stocking up on the essentials – a slight increase compared to 12 months ago (47 percent). Following last year’s trends, these items include toiletries (90 percent), food and water (79 percent), cleaning supplies (76 percent), hand sanitizer (72 percent), medicine and medical items (53 percent), and pet supplies (34 percent). And while 56 percent say they are spending about the same amount on essentials now compared to one year ago, 35 percent say they are actually spending more.
  • Aisles finally looking fuller. In March 2020, nearly 100 percent of consumers noticed household essentials being out of stock on store shelves. As supply chains continue to recover from the initial shock of the pandemic, that number has now shrunk to 77 percent. However, the hardest items to obtain still include pandemic essentials like cleaning supplies (77 percent), toiletries (66 percent), and hand sanitizer (48 percent).
  • Brand loyalty continues to waver. While 85 percent of consumers reported not caring about brand names in March 2020, the number a year later has decreased, yet remains relatively high compared to pre-pandemic trends. Now, 61 percent say brand names still do not matter when making their purchasing decisions.
  • Consumers continue to take precautions in-store. As consumers continue to head in-store to get their essentials, nearly 90 percent say they are taking certain safety precautions (86 percent in March 2021 vs. 85 percent in March 2020). The majority of consumers are disinfecting their hands and shopping carts (86 percent), using debit/credit cards to avoid handling cash (70 percent), using self-checkout (66 percent), and shopping at slower times (65 percent).
  • Online shopping picks up steam. As Americans become increasingly accustomed to spending more time at home and retailers continue to expand their ecommerce capabilities, one in two (51 percent) consumers now say they are shopping online more frequently as compared to the start of the pandemic, with 84 percent planning to continue shopping online in the future. However, most consumers say high shipping costs (67 percent) and extended delivery dates (51 percent) caused by this uptick in popularity have led them to abandon online shopping carts in the past year.
  • Shopping as an event. With much of the past year spent at home, 44 percent of consumers now view in-store shopping as an event and something to look forward to. For those who feel the opposite, reasons vary from viewing shopping as: something done for a specific purpose (45 percent), a stressful event (23 percent), and a nuisance (20 percent).

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“A year later, we are still learning how consumer behavior is evolving. Whether shoppers are  shifting to conscious consumerism or continuing to stockpile and undertake safety precautions, we are committed to keeping brands and retailers informed at every stage of the pandemic,” said David Fisch, general manager of Shopkick. “It has become clear that this new retail reality requires keeping a much more frequent pulse on consumers’ needs and expectations, especially as brand loyalty continues to waver.”

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