The Impact of COVID-19 on Online Shopping Behavior

 | Posted by Kate Upton

In recent months there have been a number of concerns for business owners. Not only are there concerns about health and employee wellbeing, but around businesses being able to survive. COVID-19 will be one of the main defining events of this year, and the impact of it will have some lasting implications for us all, as we enter this new decade. For businesses owners in particular, it will change how things are done and could mean new business ideas, alongside other businesses closing. The whole situation is changing quite rapidly. The number of people who are considered safe to be gathered together has changed, and things like movie theaters, gyms, bars, restaurants, and clubs are all changing how they do things, or simply shutting down. Office-based workers are faced with challenges like working remotely full time, and retail has also changed.

People are starting to come to terms with the realities that we now have a somewhat interconnected world, and as a result, starting to see how difficult it can be to temporarily be separate from those things that connect us to others. We’ve heard the phrase a lot, and unprecedented really is an understatement for how life is now.

One of the ways that we have seen things change massively is shopping habits and in retail in general. People are approaching shopping differently, and there have been big changes in shopping habits. Bulk buying is something that has been big on the agenda, as well as online shopping. Although this was something that was slowly taking over brick and mortar retail stores, it is definitely a preference for many now, especially if they wouldn’t have considered it before. People everywhere are changing what they buy, when they buy, and how they buy. So if you are someone with a business in the online retail world, then you need to see just how things are changing. If you’re thinking of ideas around online retail, then it is an industry that is only going to grow, so stick around to find out more.

Changes in revenue across eCommerce businesses

More and more people have embraced being socially distant, in order to slow the spread of the virus. So naturally, if someone was thinking of just going to the mall or shopping elsewhere, without something particular in mind, isn’t likely to be doing that as much any more. That would make it seem that there would therefore be a big increase in online shopping as those people then turn to eCommerce to browse and to buy those things that they would have normally picked up in a store.

In many industries, this is true. Online retail sales are up in some areas, with some seeing massive growth, and others not as much. The online retailers of people selling things like household goods and groceries have increased so much. For example,, who is China’s largest online retailer, has seen a massive increase of sales for common household items, with some sales quadrupling what they were over the same time period in the year before. Surveys have also found that people shopping online are spending up to 30% more than they would have before. There are a number of reasons why this could be, but it has got to be partly down to the fact that people aren’t going into stores anymore, so looking online for everything instead, even if they might not have done that before.

Habits are definitely changing when it comes to online shopping. People are looking for more and more everyday items online, from groceries to snacks, to eyeglasses and beauty products. For the latter two industries, they are usually places where people will want to try things on in person, such as checking if a pair of glasses suits them, or if a shade of foundation matches them. However, these industries, and websites like are growing in popularity as people have more time to browse at home, and they don’t want the hassle of having to go into a physical store. But what other industries are doing well?

Grocery eCommerce

Many shoppers turned to online groceries at the peak of the pandemic, and there was definitely a shift of not wanting to head out the store if they can just get them delivered right to their door. Not only that, if local stores were out of certain items, then people looked for them online. Some of the biggest things that were searched for online were toilet paper and hand soap around March and April, as people were looking for ways to buy them online. So a lot of eCommerce will have increased, but groceries is the biggest industry to have improved.

In terms of business, this can be something to take advantage of. Do you have a local store that could actually set up a website and start to deliver in the local area? How about setting up a food box delivery company that can ship to all parts of the country? This spike in grocery sales online just shows that if people can do the shopping online and have it delivered to them, then it will be a preference. It is hard to see that going anywhere anytime soon too.

Other eCommerce categories

In addition to the grocery sector in online retail, eCommerce covers a wide range of categories and products. While eCommerce performance is generally up, breaking down the facts and the data by each industry shows which are doing well as a result of the current global situation, and which haven’t been doing as well as hoped. As you can imagine, luxury items and the sale of jewelry online has been down, as well as fashion, car items, and tools. Understandably, the biggest sector down on sales online are travel sites.

The industries that are performing the best, other than groceries, are medical products, baby products, cleaning products, and health and wellness products. With more people working from home and being at home more, it makes sense that cleaning products would be up on sales, as well as home fitness equipment, and medical products. Again, in terms of business this shows what people are looking at the moment, and what could do well if launched as an online business at the moment.

Subscription services

One of the industries that is doing well at the moment is subscription services. There have been some significant upward trends with conversion in this industry, as well as revenue. People know what they are getting with a subscription service, and as long as they can still afford it, it makes sense to keep getting it delivered. The effects of COVID-19 on eCommerce has been tracked for a number of sectors with subscription models, by monitoring and comparing the data from different businesses each year. Both revenue and conversion rates have increased, but revenue has been increasing at a greater rate compared to conversion. Another aspect to consider when it comes to online retail.

Online streaming, which is a type of subscription service, has also seen a boom. Services like Amazon, Netflix, and Disney+ have all seen gains in the number of subscribers this year. This not only reflects the new way that we do things and more of a reluctance to go out as we have before, but also because the networks are releasing big movies straight to their channels, rather than going to the movie theater. Mulan, although a loss for Disney, was released straight to their Disney+ streaming service, as well as things like the new Trolls movie that went straight to Amazon. All of this is something that is really new, but something that we are likely to see more and more of.

We are all living in a strange time, and for now, it seems like things will be this way for a while. Customers want to support businesses and want to do their shopping, as for the majority, they are still in work, have money to spend, and want some kind of normality. Customers are therefore trying to adapt to these unusual times and are starting to shift their behaviors as a result. If you are an online business owner at the moment, then you will also be facing some of the same uncertainty that customers have, as you try to support the needs of your customers, as well as those of your business and your employees.

Depending on what industry you are in, what you do at this moment, to the ever changing issues that we are all facing, can change. At the end of the day, you know your customers well and know what their needs are. If there are things that you can start to do or start to change, that can better suit their needs and meet the current demands, then it will help your business to adapt and to thrive. Behaviors around online retail are changing, and you need to change with them and adapt, or your business will get left behind.

Websites by Masterhouse

Masterhouse Media is an innovative digital consulting agency from Vancouver, BC specializing in web development and mobile apps. Masterhouse is best known for launching the popular Internet portal in 1999, one of the first social media platforms on the Internet. The company is currently focused on building digital strategies and premium websites for clients. Find out more at

Share with your friends