The Pandemic Effect on Online Behaviour

Our civilization is riding the digital currency more than ever and with the advent of a global pandemic which brought irrevocable changes in people’s lifestyle and behaviour online. With the boom of digital entertainment, online workspaces, online shopping, and the crippling of domestic and international travel, the average customer has undergone a swift re-evaluation of their priorities, bringing along a behaviour shift that has been a stark reflection of the affairs of 2020. This behavioural transference is compelling brands and businesses to rethink and reshape their strategies.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has brought about some fundamental changes across various facets of online consumer behaviour – retail, health, personal shopping, work, entertainment, learning, communication, etc; thus creating ripples of a digital change with lasting longevity. As we explore our current battle with COVID-19 and its effects on online consumer behaviour, we will go through the steps that need to be taken in order to brace for the next.

The Shift in Online Consumer Behaviour during the crisis

According to the Accenture Covid-19 Consumer Research, 82% of consumers are concerned about the health of others and 88% are concerned about the economy, showing deep concerns arising from both a health and economic perspective. This in turn has revealed a variety of online navigation and purchasing habits.

Basic Necessities come first

With the global pandemic serving as a sobering reminder, the general public got back to a relatively ‘simpler’ way of living – adhering to their basic needs such as food, medicine, hygiene, personal and financial security. Although there was a significant rise in online entertainment, education, and jobs, the basic needs still rank higher in the priority of the daily consumer.

The rise in Product Consumption, Reduction in spending

The survey conducted by UNCTAD and Netcomm Suisse eCommerce Association, in collaboration with the Brazilian Network Information Center ( and Inveon, shows that online purchases have increased by 6 to 10% across most product categories. Such reports provide valuable insights into the shopping behaviour of consumers that show a jump in purchases regarding pharmaceuticals and health, education (online courses), personal care, and do-it-yourself tools. Meanwhile, purchases related to domestic and International traveling were at an all-time low, citing the obvious reason for strict quarantining.

Vocal for Local

COVID-19 crippled the import and export of various goods, giving rise to the love for local products and local shops which gave a much-wanted boost to the local marketplace. Post-Lockdown, the practice of supporting local businesses saw a significant spurt. According to a survey by Paymentsense, 62% pledged their loyalty to the local businesses that worked to help them through lockdown; 44% said that lockdown had changed their shopping habits and now plan to shop locally.

Brand Equity‘ by Economic Times states that 65% of people prefer goods from their own country with China excelling in the ‘buy local’ campaign with 87% expressing this view, followed by Italy (81%), S Korea (76%) and Spain (73%). Products from China and the US, in particular, are perceived as risky by people in other countries with 60% and 47% respectively saying they are slightly less favorable of buying goods and services from those countries.

Influencer Marketing

Previously influencer marketing was limited to celebrities. But today the scenario is a bit different as people are more curious to know the product experience and the exact specifications before buying any product. Any influencer with a suitable following and repute on social media platforms is being hired by top brands for their product review and most importantly to convey the product experience to their audience base. Consumers are more likely to search for the latest video from any influencer than to click on an Ad. 2022 will witness a sharp increase in the area of influencer marketing as more and more digital consumers are using AdBlockers to cut out the clutter from their online journey. Ad Block by Google Chrome single-handedly has over 60 million current users and crosses over 350 million downloads.

Reinvigorated Digital Entertainment

One major shift caused by this year-old pandemic that’s likely to be transient is Digital Entertainment. The Mckinsey June 2020 report says that “Disney Plus achieved in 5 months what took 7 years for Netflix”. But this doesn’t mean that Netflix is doing too shabby either; the most-watched shows of this crisis-stricken year were (almost) all from the streaming giant, notably – The Office (before it was taken down), Ozark, The Crown, Schitt’s Creek, The Queen’s Gambit and more. The Queen’s Gambit had the distinction of annihilating Netflix viewing numbers with a record-breaking 62 million household viewers in the first 28-days of the series release. There was also a renewed interest in reality shows and documentaries; the same goes for films, with cinemas shutting down digital channels providing respite.

So what does this tell us about consumer behaviour in the Entertainment facet? Consumers underwent a rapid adjustment to the new reality imposed onto them by COVID-19. They are burning through this newfound digital stockpile owing to the ease of access. Although the reopening of the cinema theatres might provide a temporary respite to the general public because they got to relive the ‘good-old-days’, this transference towards digital entertainment is sure to have long-term implications.

Preference for Trusted Brands

The behavioural shift also revealed the average consumer’s preference for brands that provide an experience rather than just connecting with them on a superficial level. A survey by Kameleon shows that 67% of consumers will prefer a brand that succeeds in changing their online behaviour and 41% will switch from a brand that presents a poor online experience. A study by Kantar shows that consumers expect the brands they choose to prioritize their employees, with 78% saying take care of employees’ health and 62% saying implement flexible working.

Looking Ahead

Because we still aren’t clear of the ‘neck of the woods’ of COVID-19 yet, it might be a tad early to decide the long-term implications of this pandemic on online consumer behaviour. But in certain sectors, people had adapted to the new normal. The behavioural alteration is intricately tied to the re-prioritization of the basic consumer’s needs and values. Brands and businesses also need to adjust accordingly.
The yearly APAC report of Google suggests brands address systemic inequalities and embed empathy into a brand’s marketing strategy. Consumers need to connect to the brand on a deeper level, thus the need for a better online experience. Now is the time to explore the digital channels and tools and exploit this virtual medium to its fullest effect..

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Author: Shivangsh Mukherjee
Operations Manager with a background in Media Science, Shivangsh takes care of the digital chores that come his way such as social media management, content writing, copywriting, etc. He has been instrumental in many successful digital campaigns for top brands. Enjoys biding his time by watching and analyzing films and TV shows.