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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Sept 27, 2022

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/)
Sept 22, 2022

How an Amazon SEO Agency Should Be Serving Your Brand

If you’re in the global ecommerce space, you are most likely aware of Amazon, and probably selling your products on the marketplace. With over $470 billion in sales in 2021 alone, Amazon stands as the third largest company in the world based on revenue. The ecommerce giant is a household name in the U.S. and working hard to grow its market share across five continents worldwide.

Having your products available on Amazon and being competitive there, though, are definitely two different things. If you want to really succeed on Amazon, you’ll need specialized insight into how Amazon works and how to make it work for you. So, for many brands, it’s a great idea to work with an Amazon Search Engine Optimization (SEO) agency.

At Pattern, Amazon SEO optimization service is one of our key competencies. We understand that technology, data-driven insights and expertise  are the most important tools brands can leverage to win top listing spots on digital marketplaces. With expert teams and years of experience, we help brands conquer the Profitability Death Spiral as they compete with other products and sellers online. We offer Amazon SEO agency services as a core solution to brands that need more resources to get ahead. 

What is an Amazon SEO Agency?

An Amazon SEO agency serves brands by improving their products’ rank and listing performance on Amazon. They make strategic decisions about ad spending and placement that lead to higher traffic, conversions, and revenue for ecommerce brands.

A great Amazon SEO Agency partner will:

Prioritize Your Success

Unfortunately, many Amazon SEO agencies profit in unfair ways from your brands’ perceived success based on the ROAS numbers they provide. This is done through including branded search terms in ROAS reports, which naturally skew listing performance

Let’s say, for instance, your brand is called “Annie’s” and you sell lollipops. Your brand has a very high likelihood of winning the top listing spots on Amazon for lollipop search terms that are paired with “Annie’s,” your brand name. So, SEO agencies will spend your ad money on those terms and report a very high ROAS. 

To avoid scenarios like these, it’s best to look for an agency that either calculates their profits on metrics other than your ROAS scores or weighs branded search terms differently in the performance metrics reports. Regardless of your Amazon SEO agency’s cost structure, you should align onbranded search terms before committing to a scope of work.

Provide Detailed Competitive Insight

A great indicator of a high-quality Amazon SEO agency is the level of insight they can provide into your competitors’ listing positioning and how it compares to yours. Data fanaticism is so important at Pattern that we’ve developed proprietary technology to display this exact information with precise detail for every brand we work with. In fact, you can find our free version here to see how you compare to some of your top competitors based on ASIN.

It’s certainly possible to improve your Amazon search performance with blind spending strategies. But a truly great solution will help you to know where your dollars are at their most powerful and competitive.

Reduce Your Ad Spend Over Time

Amazon’s A10 algorithm prioritizes customer satisfaction—it wants to show consumers the best products that align with their search intent to improve conversions and sales. So, the best way to gain momentum on Amazon is to work on incremental wins. 

Improving your performance on more obscure search terms that align with your customers’ search intent is a great way to increase ROAS for the long term. A10 will reward your success with better rankings on higher-volume search terms and the virtuous cycle can help you conquer your most-coveted listing spots. And the best part? This process of gaining momentum, if done right, will naturally decrease your ad spend over time as Amazon recognizes your value and works with you to keep your products at the top of consumers’ search results.

Amazon SEO Optimization and More

As an Amazon SEO specialist, Pattern knows how to help your brand win better success for long-term profitability on Amazon. With our data-driven tools and brilliant teams of ecommerce experts, we help brands with listing management, content optimization, Amazon ad strategies, and more.

Contact us to learn more about our SEO optimization services.

Sept 20, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 20th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon to raise pay and add extra work benefits for delivery drivers Following the rise in fuel prices and protests by Amazon workers, the ecommerce giant is raising its delivery drivers’ pay and adding more work benefits. Amazon has mentioned that it will be investing $450 million into rate increases along with an education program and a Delivery Service Partners program. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/14/amazon-to-raise-delivery-drivers-pay-and-add-more-work-benefits/) Amazon announces it will give away shipping software to merchants at no cost Amazon has recently announced that it will be giving ecommerce merchants free software to manage shopper orders on and off its platform as it extends its reach. The ecommerce giant will be ending monthly costs for sellers using Veeqo, a shipping software it recently acquired and instead offer to them a new, free shipping software. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/16/amazon-to-give-away-shipping-software-to-merchants/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Walmart unveils new virtual fitting rooms In an effort to drive clothing sales, Walmart has launched virtual fitting rooms while competitors reduce spending amid the cost of living crisis. The virtual try-on tool can be used by Walmart customers to virtually measure the clothing items and see how the products would look on them. Shoppers will now be able to see how over 270,000 clothing items on Walmart’s ecommerce site would look on their bodies. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/15/walmart-launches-virtual-fitting-rooms-to-drive-clothing-sales/?utmsource=Retail+Gazette+Subscribers&utmcampaign=2da7f0f8f8-EMAILCAMPAIGN202209150742&utmmedium=email&utmterm=0d23e2768b6-2da7f0f8f8-61040615) THG slashes sales and profit expectations The Hut Group has slashed its forecasts for 2022 as rising interest rates, inflation and energy costs take a toll on consumers. Previously, THG estimated its sales growth to be between 22-25% but after a recent evaluation, has lowered this prediction to between 10-15%. Initial predictions did not take into account the negative effects of ceasing sales in Russia and Ukraine along with the impact that the cost-of-living has had on consumer spending. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/15/thg-slashes-forecast-as-cost-of-living-crisis-hits-consumers-wallets/) --- Other Ecommerce News --- DHL and Post Office team up to provide click and collect services Through a partnership between delivery company, DHL and Post Office, a new click and collect service is to be tested at Post Offices before rolling out to over 1000 branches across the UK. Online shoppers will now have the option of choosing their local Post Office as a collection point, and DHL will fulfil the delivery aspect, opening up networks for both parties. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/14/post-office-partners-with-dhl-express-to-provide-click-and-collect-services/) US consumer watchdog plans to further regulate the BNPL sector The US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has raised concerns regarding the collection of consumer data and the fast-growing nature of the BNPL sector, which includes companies such as Affirm and Klarna. The CFPB is worried that these companies could be negatively impacting consumers’ financial health and aims to put better regulations in place to ensure consumers are safe and empowered. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/16/us-consumer-watchdog-to-start-regulating-bnpl-sector/) Japanese ecommerce market estimated to grow by 6.9% in 2022 The ecommerce market in Japan, largely dominated by domestic online retailers including Reakuten and Mercari, is set to reach $194.3 billion USD in 2022, after seeing an annual compound growth rate of 5.2% between 2018 and 2021. This makes Japan the fourth leading ecommerce market globally, following China, the US, and the UK. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/13/japan-ecommerce-market-to-grow-by-6-9-in-2022/) Ecommerce brands are spending more on TikTok ads TikTok may soon be surpassing Facebook and Google as the most lucrative advertising channel, with ecommerce brands spending 60% more on TikTok ads in Q2. Facebook is still ahead as the top choice for ecommerce advertisers but only grew by 5.6% from Q1, while Google grew 20.5% in Q2, and Snap declined 10.8% in Q2. [Read more on SearchEngineLand](https://searchengineland.com/ecommerce-brands-spent-60-more-on-tiktok-ads-in-q2-387876)