Tradeswell Research: What will post-pandemic shopping look like?

This article is part of our Tradeswell Research series. We’re sharing findings from our data and research and turning them into actionable insights that ecommerce brands can use to make better business decisions that drive profit and enhance the customer experience.

Remember when baking bread was all the rage at the start of the pandemic?

Unable to shop in physical stores or hang out with friends and family in public places, consumers turned to new pandemic-safe habits. But data shows many of those habits are wearing off and pre-pandemic shopping behaviors are making a comeback.

The Tradeswell Research team looked at consumer demand to understand which industries were experiencing growth and decline. Having a pulse on consumer demand trends allows ecommerce retailers to understand how shoppers are shifting their buying habits, better predict sales, and make informed decisions around advertising and inventory. 

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How we measured consumer demand

To measure consumer demand, we developed a metric that accounts for how high search terms are ranked as well as the volume of search terms within a category. For example, shoppers may search for multivitamins 100 different ways–multivitamins with zinc, multivitamins with iron, etc. By including both the rank and volume of keywords and long-tail keywords, we can provide a more comprehensive view of consumer demand.

Industries with largest year-over-year consumer demand growth

Based on search term rankings and the volume of search terms, we identified the industries with the largest growth in consumer demand, along with how shopping trends are pivoting, as we emerge from the pandemic.

Chart03

The Industrial & Scientific category sees the highest consumer demand growth rate

The Industrial and Scientific category, which includes rapid COVID tests and face masks, had the highest YoY growth rate from Q1 2021 to Q1 2022 at 405%. This correlates with COVID infection patterns. January 2022 saw the highest spike in COVID cases, likely causing the increased demand for tests and masks.

Are we about to have another Baby Boomer generation?

Baby is another category that increased in consumer demand with a 286% increase in growth YoY in Q1 2022. Early in the pandemic, many experts believed there would be a baby boom with more people staying home. 

Instead, birth rates dropped in 2020. Based on our data and supporting outside research, we expect to see a rise in births in the coming year. Bank of America found that pregnancy test sales are up 13% YoY since 2020—a strong indication that there will be more births in 2022.

Return to office = more office supplies

With more people returning to offices, it comes as no surprise that sales of products in the Office Products category grew nearly 34% YoY in Q1 2022. According to a study by Microsoft, 50% of business leaders say they already require, or plan to require, employees to return to in-person work full-time in the next year. 

Major companies, including Microsoft, Apple, Ford, and Wells Fargo, have all announced they will require employees to be back in the office on at least hybrid models—driving increased demand for office supplies. 

Industries with the largest year-over-year consumer demand decrease

Looking at industries with the largest YoY consumer demand decrease tells us that consumers are leaving their homes more and returning to their pre-pandemic lifestyles.

Industries with the largest year-over-year consumer demand decrease

Shoppers return to brick and mortar for groceries

The number of people buying groceries online grew 42% YoY in 2020, but our data suggests that consumers are trading in the comfort of their homes for a return to in-store shopping, with online consumer demand for groceries decreasing 79% YoY in Q1 2022. 

Two factors likely led to this decline:

  • Shoppers are more comfortable shopping in physical stores now that they can easily access vaccines and COVID tests, and no longer need to wear a mask in most public places.
  • The combination of the war in Ukraine, rising gas prices, and labor costs have inflated the costs of groceries. In-person shopping is less convenient, but it allows people to easily compare prices and products, and there’s no delivery and tip fee on top of the bill.

Pre-pandemic lifestyles make a comeback

A survey by Lending Tree found that six out of ten Americans picked up a new hobby during the pandemic, but the return to pre-pandemic lifestyles has resulted in people abandoning these new activities. 

Arts, crafts, and sewing saw a 63% decline in consumer demand YoY, and musical instruments saw a 45% decline in consumer demand YoY. Consumers are also spending less on home and garden products as they spend more time out of their homes. 

How to use consumer demand trends to optimize your ecommerce go-to-market strategy

We’ve outlined three ways to use our consumer demand data to help you optimize your marketing, product, and inventory strategies:

  1. Review your product roadmap and determine if it aligns with evolving trends in consumer buying behavior.
  2. Review your sales trends over the past quarter and ask yourself: Are you seeing an increase or decrease in demand on products that align with Tradeswell's data? 
  3. If you aren't capturing an increase in demand, analyze your marketing and inventory strategies to ensure you're able to capitalize on more consumers looking for specific products.

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