How COVID-19 Has Changed Consumer Behavior

June 30, 2020
By   Lilianne Le
Category   Social Media

COVID-19 has transformed the way people interact with the world. For instance, since the pandemic started, internet usage has skyrocketed. Many customers and businesses have become more dependent on online information and services than ever before, making it crucial for businesses to maintain a strong digital presence. Keeping up with ever-changing digital trends can help your business navigate these challenging times.

Let’s take a look at the consumer and digital trends that have emerged during the pandemic, and how they may affect how you operate your business going forward.

Digital Use Is Up

Consumers have been using the internet more than ever during the lockdown. 53.3% of total media time spent in Canada is now on digital (5 hours, 32 minutes), which is a steeper growth than was predicted pre-COVID.

Social Media Is Skyrocketing

Due to the restrictions on public gatherings, people have been relying on streaming platforms like Netflix and YouTube to stay entertained. They’ve also increased their social media use to stay informed and build/strengthen connections with other individuals during isolation. Emarketers expect that the average person’s time spent on social media in 2020 will be 1 hour and 20 mins daily, a jump of 6 minutes per day.

Facebook had previously recorded declines in time spend on their platform in the last few years, but the pandemic has reversed that trend. After reporting declines for a number of years in a row, it is now showing growth of 4.3%, with users projected to spend up to 34 minutes each day on Facebook.

Pre-COVID, time spent on Instagram has remained relatively flat, with a predicted increase of only 1.5% this year. But there’s been a serious usage spike due to the pandemic, which has resulted in a projected growth of 14%, with the average user spending an additional 3 minutes on the platform daily. According to BusinessInsider, Instagram Live has made exceptional gains during COVID-19, with usage jumping 70% in March.

Snapchat is also seeing increases in the total time spent on its platform. By the end 2020, time spent is estimated to grow 12%, with the average user spending almost 30 minutes a day on it. Engagement on Snapchat has hit record highs during the pandemic, and users are finding new ways to use the app, spending more time in lenses and Snap Games.

WhatsApp has also seen big increases since the pandemic started. Overall, WhatsApp has seen a 40% increase in usage; in the early phase of the pandemic usage increased 27%, in mid-phase 41% and countries in the late phase of the pandemic are seeing an increase of 51%.

TikTok continues to surge, especially among young people, with kids ages 4-15 now spending 80 minutes a day on the app, (rivaled only by YouTube, where they spend 85 minutes a day). In the first quarter of 2020, it had more than 315 million installs across the App Store and Google Play — marking the most downloads for any app ever in a quarter.

Source: TikTok Global Downloads bu QuarterSensorTower

Consumers and Retailers Have Been Forced to Adapt

In order to continue to serve their customers during the early months of the pandemic, most retailers had to go fully online as business closures were implemented, emphasizing the need for ecommerce. Now more than ever, retailers need to provide consumers with easy, accessible ways to purchase their goods or services on any type of device. Below are some behavior trends that have developed during the pandemic, according to Numerator:

  • 85% of Canadians say their shopping behavior has been impacted by COVID-19
  • Gen Z has seen the greatest impact, with 96% claiming they have been affected
  • 29% of consumers say they are making online purchases for things they would normally buy in-store

Consumer Spending Varies by Category

Canadians have been saving more since COVID-19 mandated bars, clothing stores, restaurants, and salons to temporarily close. This time has prompted many people to review their finances and increasing their savings, when possible. However, experts expect typical spending habits to resume once the economy fully reopens. Dimitry Anastakis, the chair of the business history at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, says, “Consumer behaviour following the Great Depression and the Second World War suggests Canadians are likely to return to their previous spending habits quickly, once there is a vaccine for COVID-19, and this fearful period ends.”

Check out the shifts in consumer spending patterns in the early months of the pandemic:

 Household and Discretionary Items

Spending relatives to pre-COVID average in 2020

  • Apparel was hit very hard, as it is a luxury and many people are working from home, eliminating the need to dress up
  • Meanwhile, software and data spending rose as people set up home offices

                                                                                Groceries and Dining    

Spending relative to pre-COVID average in 2020

  • Grocery has seen tremendous growth. In the beginning, there was a big spike as many restaurants closed and people were cooking from home. It has since evened out, but is still performing well
  • Dining has been hit hard, though takeout and delivery options has helped to some degree

Entertainment spending

  • Entertainment has shifted substantially
  • According to RBC, there was an increase of 20% in spending on home entertainment in March and April.

Advertising During the Pandemic

According to the WFA Covid-19 Response Tracker, many large multinationals drastically cut ad budgets and postponed campaigns at the start of the pandemic. While May saw a slight increase in advertising (up 8% since March), WFA’s survey indicates that 52% of large multinationals predict their spending will be on hold for more than six months. 68% of respondents say they are currently running a crisis response campaign (up from 32% from March), but advertising budgets are not nearly as big as they typically are. Global ad budgets are forecasted to drop 36% in the first six months of the year.

Another study suggests that 52% of the executives surveyed project that ad spending will start to rebound in the summer and fall.We Ad Execs Expects the Ad Spending Recovery to Begin

Consumer Behavior Has Been Transformed Forever

When the pandemic comes to an end, consumer habits will be forever changed. This is a good opportunity for brands to allocate some time to think about what they should focus on post-crisis, as their customers will now expect easy online shopping, curbside pickup, and more.

In addition, post-COVID spending may look different. For the beauty industry, people will start going out again which means the demand for haircuts and makeup should bounce back, whereas for grocery, food, and beverage may stay steady as individuals have adapted to making home-cooked meals. Some categories that are performing well during COVID-19 are expected to decline, so be aware of a possible counter-trend.

Post-COVID spending

According to CommerceNext, e-commerce will continue to grow substantially even as stores are reopened as it has become the new normal for most consumers.  When it comes to reopening, retailers must work hard to create positive customer experiences and decrease the amount of anxiety consumers have about “the new normal.”

E-Commerce Consumer Spendings

Consumer habits have been significantly disrupted, which means that the way you operate your business has changed. E-commerce adoption has been accelerated across all demographics and categories, being accessible on social media is expected, and the in-store buying experience has been transformed. Adapting quickly to these new consumer and digital trends will help set your business up for success post-pandemic.


digitalmarketing marketing


Lilianne Le

Lily is a digital marketing specialist at Reshift Media.

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