Apocalypse to Coping: Data Shows the 3 Stages of COVID Consumer Search Behavior

Pattern Data Science

October 8, 2020

Toilet paper, sourdough starters, disposable masks, oh my! It’s been a wild nine months—or nine years (as far as we can tell)—as we’ve settled into the “new normal” of the COVID-19 pandemic, and one particularly interesting story of 2020 is found in what we’ve been buying.

From panic purchases to impulse splurges, 2020 has rollercoastered our shopping habits, and the resulting trends are a fascinating glimpse into consumer psychology during the pandemic.

We’ve tracked search-tied purchases over the past nine months to determine what consumers were buying on Amazon at each point of COVID-19. The results can be divided into three main shopping phases: the apocalypse phase, the boredom buying phase, and the comfort buying phase.

Here’s what we’ve learned.

Note: The following data has been normalized with a mean of 100 to more easily and completely showcase results.

1. The Apocalypse Phase

The first few weeks of COVID-19 lockdowns felt a bit like the Hunger Games as we raced to the grocery store to fight our neighbors for emergency supplies. Uncertainty about the new virus paired with existential dread drove us to make many apocalyptic purchases in March, including food supplies, cleaning products, medicine, disinfectants, and masks. By the end of the month, handsoap was the endangered species of aisle 10 and civil wars were being waged over toilet paper in aisle 12.

For a brief period in March, “bulk” was one of the hottest search items. The number of bulk food purchases rocketed 500% YoY as consumers stocked up their supplies and prepared for the worst. Bulk purchases, in fact, had their best year on record due to pandemic panic purchasing (say that five times fast).

Bulk Buying and Food Storage Searches March 2020 Due to Coronavirus COVID-19 | Pattern

Chicken, rice, and flour were in high demand in March, and flour saw sustained demand through April before falling off again due to limited supplies. As consumers scrambled for non-perishable goods, we saw ramen sales increase 550% and soup sales increase over 750% YoY in March.

Some of the clearest spikes are seen in sanitation and hygiene products. More detailed CDC health guidelines led to increased demand for hand sanitizer and soap in February and March. That demand has remained elevated throughout the pandemic, and cleaning products have followed suit.

Bidet and Toilet Paper Searches March 2020 Coronavirus COVID-19 | Pattern

A perhaps unexpected champion in the hygiene department is the bidet. The great toilet paper famine of early-2020 led to a whopping 1500% increase in demand for bidets in March. Thankfully, toilet paper numbers have returned to their former greatness and the demand for TP is back to pre-COVID numbers.

Mask purchases have had their own interesting journey during COVID-19. When so little was known about COVID-19 in January and February, respirators and N95 masks were in high demand. As these items went out of stock and medical specialists had increasing need for them, sales dropped off. Customers instead turned their attention to vitamins, thermometers, and zinc. Come May and June, as unprecedented times became a little more precedented and mask-wearing was the new normal, the demand for reusable masks increased.

Mask Searches March 2020 to August 2020 Coronavirus COVID-19 | Pattern

2. The Boredom Buying Phase

Once the initial panic purchase phase of COVID-19 wore off and consumers were sheltering in place, we entered the next phase of COVID-19: Now what?

Luggage and travel-related purchases were almost completely grounded in March and April as travel restrictions increased worldwide. Fresh on the heels of writing their New Year’s resolutions, consumers also abandoned luxury exercise purchases like fitbits and keto purchases. Sales for all of these products have dived below 2019 numbers and have not yet recovered.

Without trips, sporting events, and parties to keep consumers preoccupied during lockdown (and without expendable funds for luxury goods), consumers looked to beat back onsetting cabin fever in more traditional ways and the demand for inexpensive at-home activities and hobbies soared.

Puzzles had their greatest month ever with a growth rate of almost 800% YoY. Sewing, painting, and craft purchases also spiked as consumers got sick of their screens and looked to try new things.

Craft and at home activities Searches March 2020 to August 2020 Coronavirus COVID-19 | Pattern

Remember the high demand for flour back in March and April? It might be due (in part) to the fact that everyone and their dog began nursing sourdough starters with all that extra time on their hands—sourdough purchases increased over 700% in April!

Without hairdressers available to chop those unruly quarantine locks or retouch those roots, purchases of hair clippers and hair dye increased over 400% in April. Many of those were YOLO purchases as people took to shaving their heads en masse for the heck of it during lockdown. We can’t calculate how many people cut their own bangs out of boredom with this data set, but we can presume that many who did instantly regretted it.

Nail polish, acrylic nails Searches March 2020 to August 2020 Coronavirus COVID-19 | Pattern

Haircare wasn’t the only category to see increased demand. Another product consumers bought in droves was acrylic nail sets. April numbers show the demand for acrylics went up 400% YoY.

3. The Comfort Buying Phase

April dragged on to May which dragged on to May Part II which dragged on to July, and the boredom phase made way for the comfort buying stage when what we thought would be a sprint became a marathon.

Clothing and tops Searches March 2020 to August 2020 Coronavirus COVID-19 | Pattern

As the number of Zoom conference calls went up, the demand for pants tumbled down. Shirts have proven to be the best-selling clothing item in the era of remote work—above-the-waist fashion saw a post-lockdown climb. As more and more employees were allowed to work from home in March and April, the demand for coffee-related items also increased.

Pajamas and slippers saw a spike in April and May as we got more comfortable with the great indoors. Their sales have held fairly steady while sales for outdoors-related clothing have fizzled. Bras and underwear have also been standouts during this phase—July 2020 numbers for bras coasted above 2019 numbers.

Pajama and Underwear clothing Searches March 2020 to August 2020 Coronavirus COVID-19 | Pattern

With less opportunities to go out and less people to dress up for, makeup sales took a tumble across most categories. One of the weird exceptions is lip care. Consumers traded their lipstick tubes for lip gloss in record numbers—lip gloss sales went up almost 400% in July, paralleling the rise of reusable mask purchases. This could be because lip gloss is a quick way to elevate your Zoom meeting look that doesn’t rub off or stain masks.

This phase of the COVID-19 pandemic is also the phase when consumers started making more coping-related purchases to deal with the emotional and mental stress of lockdowns, job loss, health fears, and recession, some of them healthier than others.

Coping, Beer Wine Marijuana Searches March 2020 to August 2020 Coronavirus COVID-19 | Pattern

While divorce and therapy-related purchases dropped in March—this is fairly typical in recession environments—marijuana and wine sales spiked (you doing okay, America?). Come June and July, consumers were ditching self-help services and buying more beer and gaming related items. Gaming sales continue to increase in record numbers as we move closer toward what may be the most interesting holiday season we’ve ever had.

In summary, 2020 has thrown a wrench in consumer buying habits. Brands who have diversified are thriving, some have been downright unlucky (Looking at you, travel.), and some have hit the jackpot (Puzzles! Who would have thought.). At Pattern, we analyze consumer data like this to help our brands stay on top of ecommerce trends and succeed on ecommerce. To learn more about ecommerce trends in the time of COVID-19, explore our blog or contact us below to schedule a demo.

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Amazon's Sponsored Product ads
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What Are Amazon’s Advertising Products? Sponsored Product, Brand, & Display Ads

What Are Amazon’s Advertising Products? Sponsored Product, Brand, & Display Ads

Utilizing Amazon sponsored ads can be a smart way for a brand to drive greater traffic to a product listing and start increasing sales. While many brands still struggle to manage their advertising strategies, 30% of Amazon brand sellers increased their advertising budgets in 2022. As ecommerce executives (or even on the nose with VPs of ecommerce?)  approve their 2023 advertising budgets, it may be worth it to take a look at Amazon’s advertising products and the benefit they may have on increasing conversions. 

​​Pattern is the premier ecommerce accelerator with all of the expertise, data-driven insights, and technology brands need to gain control on Amazon and maintain their competitive niche. We know the high value of and how to utilize Amazon’s advertising products to drive the most traffic and conversions to benefit and accelerate your brand.

Here are Amazon’s three main advertising products you should know about in order to drive listing traffic to your products and increase conversions: 

For a brand executive who is selling their product on Amazon, you may not already know the differences between campaign type, so we will walk you through the differences and uses for each of these three ad campaigns.

Sponsored Product Ads

Sponsored Products are a mid-funnel advertising strategy that gives visibility to products above the top organic listings (see example below). This strategy uses custom keywords to get products in front of the consumers who are searching for them, however it can be used to capture new audiences as well.These cost-per-click (CPC) ads require no additional copy or images, but usually receive the most interaction of the campaigns and need to be monitored closely.

As you can see, these ads look just like an organic listing, however they say, “Sponsored,” on them. These types of ads can be especially effective forms of advertising because they tend to blend in with the organic results around them. With Sponsored Products, you can get your products in front of qualified customers who are searching for your product in such a way that doesn’t make them feel like they are being served an advertisement.

Sponsored Brand Ads

Sponsored Brand Ads are a top-of-funnel brand awareness tool and function on keywords. This ad format helps show a customer what they may be in need of and where to get it.  Commonly used to promote product lines or best sellers, a Sponsored Brand ad shows up as a banner above the search results (see example below). This type of ad requires that the brand showcase at least three separate products.

Unlike other campaigns used on the Amazon platform, Sponsored Brand ads require ad copy and a unique logo. These ads also can take customers to a custom landing page, or a page on the brand store, that way they get a clear and overall picture about who your brand is, what other products you sell, and why they can trust your brand

Sponsored Display Ads

Sponsored Display ads can be a tactic for top, middle, or bottom of the advertising funnel due to its varying targeting abilities. Although most commonly found under the bullet points of a detail page, these ads can also show in emails, newsletters, and even more locations off platform.

Unlike the previous ad campaigns discussed, sponsored display ads can target shopping behaviors, like repeat purchasers, similar product purchasers, and even people who viewed the detail page but did not buy. Sponsored Display ads help customers discover your brand, drive awareness, and create loyalty. 

The example above shows just one of the many placements Sponsored Display has.

Accelerate Your Sponsored Products With Pattern 

Rather than competing with each other, each of the three sponsored ad products focus on a different section of the sales funnel, allowing you to target your customers and hit your sales numbers, all while edging out possible competitors. When brands use these advertising campaigns, they can better optimize their ad budget to improve ROAS and build revenue. 

At Pattern, we have all the resources to help your brand build successful advertising and digital marketing campaigns on Amazon so you can increase traffic and conversions, which will in turn increase your revenue

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 27th September 2022
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Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 27th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon drives renewable energy push with 71 new projects Amazon is planning to add 2.7 gigawatts of clean energy capacity through a couple of new projects as the company attempts to use 100% renewable energy by 2025. The ecommerce business will soon have a total of 329 renewable energy projects, generating 50,000 gigawatt hours of clean energy, which is equivalent to powering 4.6 million US homes every year. [Read more on Reuters](https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/amazon-drives-renewable-energy-push-with-71-new-projects-2022-09-21/) Amazon launches Prime Early Access Sale Amazon is launching a new 2-day shopping event for its Prime members only, beginning on the 11th of October. Across 15 countries, Prime customers will have access to the shopping event, with thousands of deals on offer globall, ranging from fashion to electronics to essentials. The event has the purpose of giving Prime users the chance to spread the cost of items over the winter months, 6 weeks ahead of Black Friday. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/26/prime-early-access-sale/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Shopify unveils new localisation tool Shopify is launching a new localisation tool, called Translate & Adapt, which works with Shopify Markets to offer localisation for sellers who are looking to expand into new markets. The tool translates a user’s online store into different languages, including product pages and information pages. Merchants are also able to create different shipping terms for each market using the new tool, which allows international expansion and offers a more localised consumer experience, unveiling new potential. [Read more on Ecommerce News](https://ecommercenews.eu/shopify-launches-new-localisation-tool/) Etsy is set to invest hundreds of millions into its marketing platform Etsy CEO claims that the company is on route to spend more than $570 million USD on marketing this year. Even during a time of macroeconomic pressure, inflation and rising interest rates, the company is preparing itself and its sellers for the upcoming holiday season and is focused on retaining interest from buyers. [Read more on Yahoo News](https://uk.news.yahoo.com/etsy-600-million-on-marketing-ceo-154054219.html) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Meta looks to cut costs by 10% in the coming months Meta employees are facing job redundancies as the company plans to cut its costs by 10% over the next few months. Meta reported a 22% YoY increase in costs and expenses, totalling over $20 billion USD. The cuts are expected to come in the form of job redundancies as a result of department reorganisations rather than formal layoffs. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/22/meta-to-slash-costs-by-10-over-coming-months/) DHL teams up with Quadient to offer smart locker deliveries in the UK DHL and tech company, Quadient, have partnered to offer smart lockers parcel pick-up throughout the UK. The new contactless, secure locker stations will give recipients more choice and flexibility to receive their parcels at a time and location best suited to them. The partnership plans to install 500 locker stations across the country by the end of 2022. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/21/dhl-partners-with-quadient-to-offer-smart-locker-delivery/) The online fashion market is set to be worth nearly $170 billion USD in 2025 The European online fashion retail market is set to grow 50% by 2025, with an online turnover of $170 billion USD, which is 33% of the retail branch’s total. Cross-border marketplaces prove to be the largest drivers of this growth, with online websites and apps like Vinted largely pushing the market’s online growth. Zalando recently became the largest cross-border fashion retailer/marketplace, responsible for 11.7% of the online market’s share. [Read more on Ecommerce News](https://ecommercenews.eu/online-fashion-market-worth-e175-billion-in-2025/)

Top 5 Ways to Prepare for Peak with Google Ads
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Top 5 Ways to Prepare for Peak with Google Ads

Peak season is almost upon us and with all signs pointing to it starting earlier than ever, with Christmas gifting searches now ramping up in August and September, it’s time to start preparing for peak. In this article, we’re sharing our top five tips for planning and preparing for peak season with Google Ads and the strategies required to get your Paid Search ready so you can drive success over this crucial period.

1. Go Early

In 2021, gifting search terms started increasing in popularity in August. The general trend is that people are looking, researching and weighing their options early, so it’s best to start your Paid activity early to ensure that you’re capturing that early research traffic. This will help drive revenue alongside aiding those consumers who are in their research phase.

From 2020 to 2021, spend during Cyber Week actually only rose 2% but in the weeks leading up to it, it increased by 16%. However, Cyber Week is still the biggest period during the latter half of the year, accounting for 23% of all online spend by consumers over peak. Being prepared and starting early will help you to maximise your time during this period.

2. Get Ready for Privacy Changes

 According to Google, 48% of global consumers have stopped buying or using a service due to privacy concerns. Privacy is front of mind when consumers are shopping online and we know that Google is phasing out 3rd party cookies in 2023. This is going to make it much harder to track users online and it’s something that brands need to think about this now – waiting isn’t an option.

From a Google Ads point of view, you want to ensure you have set up the Google Ads tag across your site and have enabled ‘Enhanced Conversions’, which ensures all conversions are tracked and allows you to monitor other actions such as ‘Add to Cart.’ This is relatively easy to set up, especially if you use ‘Google Tag Manager’.

It’s also vitally important that you build up your first-party data during this time as this is data you own and it can be used when targeting consumers that have provided your brand with their email address. Pattern’s own experience shows that by segmenting and using first-party data, you can see a 10% improvement in revenue and ROI.

3. Ensure Consumers Can Discover your Brand

A full-funnel approach is now more important than ever as consumers become more discerning and have more choices than ever of where to shop.

Pattern has seen success with Google Ads’ ‘Discovery Campaigns’ (image-based ads that appear on Google platforms such as Gmail and the Google app), which have driven success both from a traffic and revenue perspective.

The performance of these campaigns is significantly enhanced by adopting a segmented and nuanced approach to first-party data and incorporating these into your campaigns. Other options for a full-funnel approach include YouTube and testing bidding on keywords that are more representative of the research phase. (e.g. ‘best baby clothes’ for a baby clothes brand)

4. Get Moving with Performance Max

Earlier this year, Google announced that they were moving away from Smart Shopping and launched Performance Max. This is a new campaign type that incorporates features and placements from Smart Shopping but expands them onto other platforms such as Gmail but also alternative creative options, such as images and videos.

Since Google has already started automatically upgrading Smart Shopping campaigns to Performance Max, expect to see some fluctuations in the first 2 weeks following the switch over but results generally seem positive. We recommend upgrading sooner rather than later to limit any potential impact to peak period.

5. Flight Budgets Accordingly

Peak period will be even more competitive than in 2021 and you’ll need your budgets to support this period, we recommend boosting budgets in October to start capturing that early peak traffic. As we enter November and the Cyber Period, start early and make sure you are capturing those consumers looking for early bargains, ensuring you are being nimble in your optimisations and reacting to the data that you are seeing.

Overall, peak period is vital to help drive your sales and by preparing early, you will see strong results and drive success for your brand. If you want to discuss how your brand can navigate this next peak period, contact us to discuss your options with our performance team now.