2021 Shopping Outlook: Most Consumers Say the Pandemic has Changed Their Shopping Habits Forever

Shopkick survey finds Gen Z is most optimistic about the new year

As 2021 approaches, it is clear that COVID-19 will continue to impact consumer behavior for the foreseeable future. A heightened focus on safety, financial health, and social justice issues remains top of mind for consumers as they anticipate the new year, with 60 percent saying the pandemic has changed their shopping habits forever. Still, America’s youngest consumers remain optimistic, with 42 percent of Gen Zers hopeful that life will return to “normal” in 2021.

Shopkick surveyed more than 14,000 consumers across the country to gain insights into probable 2021 shopping habits. The findings forecasted changes in purchasing behavior, health and safety expectations, as well as hopes for normalcy.

2021 Trends Include:

  • New Year, New Habits: Most consumers (60 percent) say the pandemic has forever changed their shopping habits, with the majority saying they plan to always be stocked up on the essentials (67 percent). Consumers also stated they will continue to take fewer, but bigger shopping trips (49 percent), buy online more (46 percent), care less about brand names (38 percent), and use options like BOPIS more often (10 percent).
  • Sticking with In-Store: Despite the major uptick in online shopping’s popularity brought about by COVID-19, consumers still plan to do the majority of their shopping in physical stores. Most plan to purchase both non-essential (63 percent) and essential items (89 percent) in brick and mortar stores in 2021.
  • Safety Precautions, Please: Although it is still uncertain when a COVID-19 vaccine will become widely available, most Americans expect retailers to continue taking precautions when it comes to shopper safety. Consumers want to see continued efforts around the availability of disinfectants (67 percent), plexiglass barriers at checkout (57 percent), employees wearing protective face coverings (52 percent), 6-feet social distancing markers (52 percent), and shoppers wearing protective face coverings (50 percent).
  • Pocketbook Planning: When it comes to planning their new year budgets, most consumers say they will be tightening their spending on both non-essential (69 percent) and essential purchases (58 percent) as a result of the pandemic. Through the rest of 2020, most consumers (52 percent) say they are proceeding with caution and will keep spending low, while 19 percent of people say they have been hit hard and are significantly tightening their budgets. On the other hand, some (18 percent) say they are spending as they typically would pre-COVID, while others (11 percent) say they are gradually returning to old spending habits.
  • The Case of the Travel Bug: Looking forward to 2021, consumers are most excited to start travelling again (30 percent), gather with friends and family (21 percent), shop in-store (15 percent), dine indoors (15 percent), attend concerts and sporting events (14 percent), and see schools reopening (6 percent).

Generational Insights:

  • Young Optimism: Gen Z (42 percent) appears to be the most hopeful that life will return to “normal” in the new year, compared to 35 percent of Millennials, 32 percent of Gen Xers, and 30 percent of Boomers.
  • Safety First: The consensus across different generations is that their outlook on health and safety when shopping in-store has forever changed. A higher percentage of Boomers (75 percent), Gen Xers (71 percent), and Millennials (70 percent) will continue to take personal precautions, like wearing a mask and bringing disinfectants to the store beyond the pandemic, compared to Gen Zers (61 percent).
  • Value-Driven Youth: Trending opposite of Shopkick’s consumer findings for 2020 shopping predictions, in 2021, Gen Z (55 percent) is now the most likely to shop more frequently at retailers or brands that align with their core values, followed by Millennials (47 percent), Gen Xers (45 percent), and Boomers (41 percent).
  • Unemployment Aftermath: With mass furloughs and layoffs continuing across the country, unemployment has impacted Gen Z family budgets (48 percent) more than Millennial families (44 percent), Gen X families (39 percent), and Boomer families (29 percent).

“The lessons we have learned from 2020 are crucial to informing how retailers and brands should adjust their strategies in the new year,” said David Fisch, general manager of Shopkick. “Our findings continue to tell us that physical retailers are not going away, they just need to be reimagined. Health and safety regulations that help people feel more secure will continue to be essential, as well as implementing the right technology to create the seamless, omnichannel shopping experience consumers have grown to expect.”

This survey was conducted online between Oct. 14 and Oct. 19, 2020.

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Apu Battan

Head of User Growth

Apu Battan is the Head of User Growth at Shopkick.

Apu is first and foremost an analytics leader, with close to 15 years of experience in helping to make decisions through the objective lens of data. Apu has always been a strong advocate for Shopkick’s most valuable customer — the user. He is passionate about acquiring the right users for our business, delighting them with the best product experience, and growing them into loyal, high-value users in the long term. Prior to Shopkick, Apu served as an Analytics Leader at Intuit for close to six years, and at Netflix, Electronic Arts, and Microsoft before that. 

Apu holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and Science,  and a master’s degree in integrated manufacturing and systems engineering from North Carolina State University, Raleigh.