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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Global Ecommerce: Weekly News (6th September 2022)
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Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 6th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon announces new inventory and distribution service, AWD Amazon has launched Amazon Warehousing and Distribution (AWD), providing inventory and distribution services to its sellers as a means of addressing current supply chain issues. AWD is now available for sellers using Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), i.e. outsourcing their fulfilment to the platform. Amazon has plans to expand the service outside the platform in 2023. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/02/amazon-introduces-new-service-to-help-solve-supply-chain-challenges/) Amazon Web Services (AWS) launches in the UAE AWS, Amazon’s cloud-computing platform offering, has launched its second region in the Middle East and now provides its services in the UAE. The move will now allow anyone in the UAE who utilises cloud technologies to harness AWS’s advanced platforms and APIs. An estimated $11 billion USD is expected to be added to the UAE’s GDP thanks to the implementation, with an average of 6,000 external vendor jobs to be created annually. AWS is now available in 87 zones across 27 regions, with sights set on expanding further across Australia, Canada, India, Israel, New Zealand, Spain, and Switzerland. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/30/amazon-web-services-launches-region-in-uae/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Lazada to launch in Europe Alibaba-owned ecommerce platform Lazada is set to launch in Europe, marking a refreshed internationalisation push from the company. The move follows toughening economic conditions and performance in Southeast Asia, advancing the need to tap overseas markets. In Europe, Lazada will face tough competition from giants like Amazon and Zalando. Lazada’s exact entry strategy is to be confirmed and will be reliant on macroeconomic and market conditions, according to Lazada CEO James Dong. [Read more on DigitalCommerce360](https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2022/09/01/alibabas-lazada-to-take-on-amazon-zalando-in-europe-push/) Chinese ecommerce giant Pinduoduo to launch cross-border platform in the United States Pinduoduo, a Chinese ecommerce giant rivalling Alibaba and JD, has announced it will be launching a new cross-border ecommerce platform. The marketplace is set to launch in the United States next month, as part of the company’s larger push into new markets. Pinduoduo found success in China thanks to its rock-bottom price offerings and harnessing of social commerce marketing, emulating strategies similar to fast-fashion giant Shein. [Read more on Yahoo Finance](https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/pinduoduo-launch-international-e-commerce-034129263.html) Alibaba launches its biggest B2B sales event, ‘Super September’ China ecommerce giant, Alibaba, has now launched its month-long B2B sales event ‘Super September’. The event provides 40 million buyers and 200,000 suppliers with the ability to connect on the platform, showcasing a ‘virtually unlimited’ number of products. The event hopes to foster new cross-border business relationships to tackle supply chain challenges currently faced by businesses. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/01/alibaba-launches-super-september-b2b-sales-event/) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Klarna’s losses quadruple in first half of 2022 BNPL provider, Klarna, has reported losses of $581 million USD for the first half of 2022. This figure is almost four times larger than a year earlier, where $129 million USD in losses were reported. The company attributes the losses to employee costs, technology investments, and rising credit losses. Klarna’s figure reporting comes amidst worsening economic conditions, fresh legal and regulatory scrutiny, and pressure from Big Tech competitors. [Read more on The Financial Times](https://www.ft.com/content/483451db-9221-4ca4-83a6-b4ddc6bfcfbb) [Read more on the Guardian](https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/aug/31/klarna-losses-more-than-triple-as-consumer-spending-slows) One fifth of Snap employees to be laid off amidst poor financial performance Social media platform Snap (‘Snapchat’) has announced it will be laying off 20% of its employees and closing out a number of projects following a year of poor financial results.The move will see 1,200 employees globally lose their jobs, saving the company an estimated $500 million USD in costs. Snap is currently valued at $20 billion, an 84% decrease from its valuation of $130 billion last year. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/01/snap-to-lay-off-20-of-its-workforce-and-wind-down-a-number-of-projects/)

Global Ecommerce: Weekly News (30th August 2022)
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Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 30th August 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon set to shut down Amazon Care Amazon is closing its telehealth service, Amazon Care, which launched in 2019 as a trial program for its headquartered employees. Later the service was rolled out nationwide for employees and other companies. The ecommerce giant has now made the decision to move away from the healthcare space, believing it was not the right long-term solution for its enterprise customers. [Read more on CNBC](https://www.cnbc.com/2022/08/24/amazon-is-shutting-down-amazon-care-telehealth-service.html) Peloton closes new deal to sell on Amazon Following a recent deal, Amazon customers will soon be able to buy Peloton fitness equipment on the marketplace, marking Peleton’s first move outside a direct-to-consumer model. According to Peloton’s CCO, there are already around half a million searches on Amazon for Peloton products every month, despite having no presence on the marketplace. Some key products include the original Peloton Bike, retailing for $1,445 and Peloton Guide for $295. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/24/peloton-strikes-deal-to-sell-fitness-equipment-on-amazon/) --- Other Marketplace News --- 60% of Malaysians are buying from local sellers on Shopee A recent survey of nearly 3,500 respondents found that nearly half of the shoppers prefer to purchase from local sellers due to shorter delivery times. Other shoppers decide to shop locally due to the quality of the products made in Malaysia and an interest in keeping the economy running. As a result, smaller local merchants have been able to grow their businesses, and shoppers benefit from shorter delivery times, products of high quality and supporting local businesses. [Read more on The Malaysian Reserve](https://themalaysianreserve.com/2022/08/25/around-60-malaysians-are-buying-from-local-sellers-on-shopee/) Flipkart’s social commerce platform Shopsy crosses 100 million users Flipkart launched a social commerce arm, Shopsy, in July of last year, which has now surpassed 100 million users, ahead of its target timeline being the end of 2022. This acquisition of new users has made Shopsy one of the largest platforms of its kind in the country, and is expected to onboard a further 100 million by the end of 2023. The platform is centred around boosting local entrepreneurship and powering ecommerce for consumers across tier 2+ regions where users face challenges around trust and navigation when shopping online. [Read more on Business Standard](https://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/flipkart-s-social-commerce-platform-shopsy-hits-100-million-users-1220828006851.html) Meta joins Amazon and Walmart in bid for Indian ecommerce market Amazon mentioned earlier in the year that it would be building a logistics division in-house through its purchase of a 51% stake in Ecom Express, an end-to-end logistics firm, to make ecommerce deliveries more efficient in the country. Walmart operates Flipkart in India and is set to continue its investment in the marketplace. In an effort to compete in the Indian ecommerce market, Meta has partnered with Indian ecommerce company, JioMart, to offer customers a grocery shopping platform within its WhatsApp chat feature. [Read more on Pymnts](https://www.pymnts.com/news/retail/2022/meta-joins-amazon-walmart-indian-ecommerce-market/) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Ecommerce in Spain worth €57.7 billion in 2021 Spanish ecommerce saw 11.7% growth compared to last year, largely attributed to cross-border sales. In the final quarter of 2021, ecommerce sales in Spain were at €16.9 billion euros, at least 60% of which came from cross-border sales. Transactions from foreign locations to Spain generated a turnover of €1.56 billion in Q4, a growth of 27.7% compared to Q4 a year before. [Read more on Ecommerce News](https://ecommercenews.eu/ecommerce-in-spain-was-worth-e57-7-billion-in-2021/)

Global Ecommerce: Weekly News (23rd August 2022)
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Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 23rd August 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon to add mental health support to primary-care service Amazon is set to move into mental health therapy with its primary-care division, following its recent acquisition deal of One Medical. The plan is to partner with virtual behavioural therapy service, Ginger, to offer its Amazon Care users with on-demand access to mental health services, licensed therapists and psychiatrists. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/11/amazon-plans-to-add-mental-health-support-to-primary-care-service/) GMB union calls for £15 an hour minimum pay at UK Amazon warehouses Amazon recently offered its warehouse workers a 3% pay rise, which in comparison to the June inflation rate of 9.4% left employees disappointed. Following this, hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers stopped work last week, protesting against the minimal pay increase, seeking a minimum of £15 an hour. Recent protests consisting of employee walkouts and sit-ins aim to get a better offer out of Amazon. [Read more on The Guardian](https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/aug/09/gmb-calls-for-15-an-hour-minimum-pay-at-amazon-warehouses-in-uk) Amazon third-party sellers have received their first-ever holiday fee hike Amazon’s third-party marketplaces account for close to half of the company’s online sales. The company introduced a 5% fuel and inflation charge to its third-party sellers earlier this year, and has now implemented another inflation increase charge. Commencing 14 October, any seller who uses Amazon’s fulfilment service is subject to the price hike, which is set to be an additional 35 cents per item for products sold in the US and Canada. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/17/amazon-third-party-sellers-have-received-their-first-ever-holiday-fee-hike/) Amazon puts a pause on UK grocery shop roll-out as the cost of living increases Amazon has slowed down on its UK roll-out of till-free Amazon Fresh grocery stores following disappointing sales and the rise in cost of living. Allegedly, the company is no longer looking for potential sites to expand and if more stores are opened, they will likely no longer use a till-free system, as consumers become more cautious about spending. [Read more on The Telegraph](https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/08/21/amazon-pauses-uk-grocery-shop-roll-out-following-disappointing/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Shopee overtakes Alibaba across international markets Shopee has surpassed Alibaba and taken the top spot for sales outside of China. Singapore-based marketplace saw a year-on-year increase of 51.4% at the end of Q2 of this year, while Alibaba saw a 3% drop during the same time period. This can be seen as a promising development for start-ups and their ability to compete with some of the largest ecommerce giants in the market. [Read more on Exchange Wire](https://www.exchangewire.com/blog/2022/08/18/shopee-surpasses-alibaba-in-international-sales-amazon-searches-for-entertainment-exec/) H&M reopens its official store to Alibaba’s Tmall ecommerce platform It has been nearly 18 months since Alibaba removed H&M from its Tmall platform, following H&M’s criticism of human rights abuses in Xinjiang. It is estimated that over a million people, predominantly minorities in the area, have been unlawfully detained in camps across the city. Brands including Nike, Adidas, Burberry and Converse were swept up in the controversy, however H&M was one of the first to be targeted for speaking out about the issue. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/16/hm-returns-to-alibabas-tmall-platform-16-months-after-xinjiang-controversy/) Klarna launches new feature allowing UK consumers to view full online order history Buy-now-pay-later company, Klarna, has launched a new feature on its shopping app, which allows UK consumers to view their full online order history, regardless of whether they purchased the product using Klarna. The feature also shows delivery tracking and aids consumers in managing their online purchases more conveniently. [Read more on The Industry](https://www.theindustry.fashion/klarna-launches-new-feature-allowing-uk-consumers-to-view-full-online-order-history/) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Online marketplaces responsible for £280 billion business turnover in the UK Nearly 900,000 UK businesses are currently selling on online marketplaces, generating an estimated £282 billion worth of sales each year. This figure represents 6% of the UK’s annual business turnover, highlighting the notable contribution that marketplaces make to the UK economy, along with the potential for further growth in this area. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/09/online-marketplaces-responsible-for-280-billion-business-turnover-in-uk/)