Analysis: The Market Impact of New Year’s Resolutions

Pattern Data Science

December 22, 2021

We’re getting closer and closer to the last day of the year, and you know what that means! That’s right, it’s almost New Year’s Resolution time.

To say the last two years have been uniquely stressful would be a bit of an understatement, and it’s more than likely that many of us have picked up a bad habit or two along the way. So as January approaches, we got to wondering: are Americans extra interested in setting resolutions for 2022? And if so, what are the most popular self-improvement areas this year compared to previous years?

Is home exercise the hot item this year, or is it all about mindfulness and improving the inner-self? We dug into the data to see how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted self-improvement trends and how things look as we head into 2022.

What were the most popular self-improvement categories and search terms in 2021?

To start things off, we wanted to examine the most popular categories and search terms this year, to see where things stack up before we head into the New Year’s rush.

Here’s a comparison of some of the most popular self-improvement categories on Amazon last year:

2021 still saw a lot of people building home offices and home gyms as the COVID-19 pandemic stretched throughout the year, so it comes as no surprise that those categories towered above the rest.

Calendars and planners were next up, with more exercise and nutrition-related categories all dominating the top 5.

Next, we examined some of the top self-improvement adjacent search terms. Here are some of the top ones.

The Keto diet appears to be just as popular as ever, as it was the top search term in the ones we analyzed for this report. Journals were next, but the rest of the top five were all dietary related (or close to it): vitamins, weight loss, and health.

Intermittent fasting, and mediterranean diet, dietary trends that have been growing more popular in recent years rounded out the bottom of this list, but that doesn’t necessarily mean these trends are on the way out.

For a clearer view on these categories and search terms, let’s dive a bit deeper into the data.

What were the most popular categories and searches during New Year’s Resolution season in 2021?

Some categories and searches are incredibly popular over the course of the entire year, there’s almost certainly some that are far more popular during New Year’s resolution season. So we next examined which saw the biggest increases in demand during January 2021 compared to the rest of the year:

Let’s start with the categories in the analysis:

Strength training equipment and planners both saw a 53% increase in demand during January compared to the rest of the year, the largest New Year’s boost out of the categories in our analysis.

Vegan cooking saw the next biggest increase, with budgeting & money management, and calendars and organizers closing out the top five.

Only swimming, creatine nutritional supplements, and men’s fitness apparel saw lower demand in January than during the rest of the year.

Here’s how our search terms fared:

Demand for ellipticals doubled during January 2021 compared to the rest of the year, easily the biggest New Year’s boost in our analysis. The Mediterranean Diet, meanwhile, saw demand spike by 86%, ahead of more exercise equipment (treadmills and exercise bikes). Closing out the top five was “mindfulness” which saw a 74% increase in demand during New Year’s.

Gym bag was the only term to see demand actually drop in January. Perhaps this is because many gyms were still closed in January 2021, and demand rose throughout the spring and summer as things began to reopen.

Which leads us nicely to the next thing we wanted to examine in our analysis.

How did COVID-19 impact online demand for personal health and self-improvement categories?

Next up on the agenda: finding out how much the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the kind of New Year’s Resolutions people decided to set for themselves. What kinds of things were people most interested in improving after a year of social distancing and quarantine?

We started by comparing demand during January 2021 to January 2020 for a direct look at which items saw the biggest shift from a pre-pandemic New Year’s to one that fell after a year as tumultuous as 2020.

Here’s a look at the change in demand at the category level:

Women’s exercise and fitness apparel had by far the biggest increase in New Year’s demand, jumping 133% from January 2020 to January 2021.

Strength training equipment saw the next biggest year over year increase, followed next by running equipment, more evidence that people were even more eager to get into shape after the first year of COVID.

Next up was desk accessories and workspace organizers, for those who were probably ready to get their home office setup to a bit more permanently enjoyable state.

Personal budgeting saw the biggest year over year decrease from 2020 to 2021, and interestingly men’s fitness apparel also saw demand drop in January 2021 compared to January 2020, completely reversing the trend we saw for women’s apparel.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these categories for a deeper understanding of how the past couple of years have impacted these trends and what we might expect to see from them in January 2022.

Let’s start with the category that got the biggest New Year’s bump compared to the rest of 2021, strength training weights and accessories:

Here’s where we see just how unusual the past couple years have been when it comes to examining some of these categories. While January was definitely the biggest month of 2021 for this category, 2020 is a different story entirely. Demand absolutely skyrocketed in the months following COVID’s initial lockdowns as Americans scrambled to find home-gym solutions.

Based on this view, we actually wouldn’t expect this category to have an exceptionally large January 2022, but we’ll wait and see.

When we examine planners, we see a really clear view of the impact of the New Year. Demand begins to ramp up in December for those who stay on top of their shopping, while January was the biggest month of the year in 2020 and in 2021. We can also see that demand for planners has increased each year, although January 2021 wasn’t all that much higher than in 2020.

Additionally, with November 2021 falling to nearly the same level as November 2020, demand for planners may actually be softening as we head into the New Year. Will January 2022 fail to match the previous two years? We’ll have to wait and see.

When we take a closer look at women’s fitness apparel we see that the huge increase from January 2020 to January 2021 had a little less to do with New Year’s resolutions and a whole lot more to do with there being a big increase in 2021 overall.

Demand for this category began to rise in late summer 2020 and has continued to increase since then. November 2021 brought a significant decrease, however, so it will be interesting to see what the holidays and January 2022 bring.

How did COVID-19 impact online demand for personal health and self-improvement search terms?

Now that we’ve examined some of the major categories, let’s see if our search terms saw similar impacts, starting again with the change in demand from January 2020 to January 2021.

The Peloton was the big winner in January 2021, experiencing a 140% increase in demand compared to January 2020. In fact, the top six search terms when it came to those who had the biggest January jump from 2020 to 2021 were all large home workout equipment items.

Many of the search terms in this view actually saw a drop in demand in 2021 compared to 2020. One again, gym bags are at the bottom of the list. But interest in each of the diet terms were all next up on the list, suggesting that after a year of COVID people were far more interested in working out than they were in picking up a new diet.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of these terms, starting with the term that had the biggest January 2021 increase compared to the 2021 average, the elliptical:

Once again, 2020 brought a huge surge in demand in March and April as Americans worked on building home gym solutions. Demand stayed high the rest of the year, surging to an all-time high in January, then dropping to well below 2020 levels by the end of Spring.

We’d expect to see another January surge in demand, but there’s strong evidence here that it won’t be anything near what we say in January 2021.

Treadmills have seen a similar, if less severe version of this trend. A surge in the first months of lockdown, a strong 2020, a very strong January 2021, followed by consistent drop through the rest of the year.

One workout machine that has bucked this trend is the Peloton:

Demand for Pelotons actually rose from January to February this year, and while it did drop later in the year, it has remained consistently above 2020 levels throughout the year.

If we had to place a bet on an at-home workout machine that will have a bigger New Year’s 2022 than 2021, it would definitely be the Peleton.

While COVID-19 had a hugely positive impact on large at-home workout machines, the gym bag tells the opposite side of that story:

New Year’s 2020 saw a lot of Americans stocking up on gym bags as they set resolutions to get out to the gym more often. Demand then absolutely plummeted in the months immediately following COVID’s initial lockdowns.

2021 has seen demand rebound somewhat, but still lagging behind 2019’s pre-pandemic trends. We expect to see January 2022 outperform January 2021, and if it jumps to pre-pandemic levels it’ll tell us a lot about how optimistic people feel about a return to the gym in 2022.

Dieting was less popular than ever in 2021

Our earlier charts suggested that dieting was on a downward trend in 2021, and a closer look definitely seems to reinforce that theory.

When we examine the broad term “diet”, we see that January 2020 and 2019 both started the year quite strong. Both years saw demand decline steadily throughout the year, but 2020 saw demand drop in the immediate months after the pandemic hit.

New Year’s 2021, meanwhile, brought almost no significant leap in demand, especially when compared to the previous two years.

Here are a few looks at specific diet terms that further suggest the pandemic has Americans less interested in diet plans than ever:

The Keto diet appears to be less popular than ever. It enjoyed particularly strong Januarys in 2019 and 2020, but demand dropped significantly once the pandemic hit. 2021 has seen demand remain consistently low, showing no real sign of a resurgence.

Intermittent fasting saw a big surge in interest in January of 2020, but it soon fell off quickly (although there was a short-lived spike in interest in September 2020). 2021, meanwhile, has seen very little change in demand throughout the year.

Even the far-less extreme dietary plan, the Mediterranean diet, has seen a drop in demand since COVID hit. This is the only one in the analysis that appears to have received a slight New Year’s bump in 2021, but it was still one that lagged far behind the previous two years.

It would appear that the pandemic has left Americans feeling far more interested in exercise, and a lot less interested in any “fad” diets.

2021 has also seen a decline in demand for self-help and meditation

It’s not just dieting that has seen a decline in demand since the pandemic hit, however. We’ve also seen demand drop year-over-year for self-help and meditation related searches.

Demand for “self-help” terms haven’t experienced the same kind of decline that diet-related terms have, but there has been a consistent year-over-year drop all the same. January 2021 saw demand fall just below January 2020 which was below January 2019.

2020 did see several months trend ahead of 2019, but once we hit July, demand dipped below pre-pandemic levels and hasn’t yet rebounded.

It’s a similar but even more extreme story for both meditation, and mindfulness with both New Year’s demand and overall demand dropping every year since the pandemic began.

A lesson for brands

Our data suggests that Americans have reshaped their relationship with New Year’s Resolutions in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Demand for at-home workout equipment went through the roof, and there’s clear evidence that people are still setting fitness goals as each new year approaches.

But there’s also a lot of evidence that people are simply trying to get through an extremely stressful time, and the idea of setting lofty goals wasn’t something a lot of us felt we had the bandwidth for in 2021.

Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy.

Whether we’ll see these same trends continue in 2022, or if we’ll see people eager to set a lot of New Year’s resolutions this year is something we will be keeping a close eye on in the weeks and months ahead..

To stay up to date on consumer behavior and ecommerce news, info, and trend analyses, be sure to subscribe to Pattern Insights.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, contact us today.

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