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Nearly Half of Americans Expect COVID-19 Shopping Habits to Be Permanent — Here’s What Changed

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a spate of changes in consumer preferences, from tighter budgeting for discretionary expenses to the accelerated adoption of digital platforms. Now, a new study suggests that those habits might have been altered for good.

Surveying more than 5,000 consumers, online coupon marketplace RetailMeNot found that 74% of Americans said that the coronavirus outbreak has impacted their shopping journeys, and nearly half (or 42%) expect that those changes will be permanent.

Among those affected shoppers, 44% of respondents said that they have found themselves purchasing items in advance more often — a habit that characterized many consumers at the onset of the health crisis, which led to panic-buying and stockpiling of non-discretionary goods and household supplies.

Plus, 30% of people chose to shop with an online retailer for the first time as government-mandated COVID-19 restrictions kept them indoors for extended periods of time. While e-commerce has been taking aim at brick and mortar for several years, the coronavirus forced many traditional players — whose so-called nonessential stores were shuttered for weeks — to rapidly scale their online presences as consumer traffic moved to digital.

What’s more, deal-seeking is more critical today than it was prior to the pandemic: RetailMeNot reported that 32% of those surveyed said they were more focused now on receiving instant savings on items, compared with having to wait for markdown sales events. It added that 70% of Americans said that finding an offer on a product was more important these days than it was a year ago, while 66% of Americans said they were aware of more places to find deals now than they have in the past.

As retailers make their way into 2021, RetailMeNot noted that discounts will continue to be one of the biggest drivers of consumers to specific retailers — even with anticipated stimulus checks and tax refunds on the horizon: It shared that 54% of shoppers want better discounts for online items, while 43% of them seek exclusive deals when they shop in stores. In the next six months, millennials are forecasted to increase their category spend on clothing, accessories and technology, while high earners — defined as those who make $75,000 and up — are 67% more likely than those who earn less than they do to increase their spending across all categories, including travel and home goods.

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