In the kNOW: Shopping of the Future is NOW!

Online shopping

The pandemic brought about many changes, the least of which was the necessity to find a new way to buy the things we need. And many turned to a place we’d never gone before, online. How was the online shopping experience for items we usually bought on our weekly trips to the grocery or Big Box store? Will we keep buying these items online in the future? We surveyed over 1,000 Americans and what we found says if you didn’t have your online marketplace in tip-top, user-friendly shape, you missed out. The good news is there’s still time to level up, but you’d better get there quick.

Before the pandemic, a 2019 U.S. Online Grocery Survey reported 36.8% of internet-using adults polled bought groceries online in the previous 12 months, up 13 points from the prior year’s study. In our research, nearly 60% ‘at least somewhat agree’/T3B we never/ rarely shopped for groceries online/ via app before the pandemic, corroborating the U.S. Online Grocery numbers.

While already experiencing growth, the onset of the pandemic pushed grocers like Kroger, Walmart and others to work fast to accommodate an unprecedented increase in demand for online grocery ordering. Almost overnight, businesses created new processes, logistics and infrastructure to make online ordering, pick-up, order-prepping and other functions as efficient as possible while adopting safer, no/low exposure shopping protocols.

For years, a critical barrier to online grocery shopping has been that it meant someone else would pick out our groceries, produce, meat, and other items. It took a pandemic to push many of us over that hurdle. Over 60% (T3B) agree we worried about the quality of groceries/ produce ordered online but have been happy for the most part. However, many may have found online grocery shopping lacking. Whether due to trust, product availability, or various other reasons, a third of us (34% TB) never stopped shopping for groceries at the store during the pandemic.

While not without its hiccups, steady growth in online grocery shopping, post-pandemic feels certain. Over 60% (T3B) agree that grocery shopping online/ via app saves a lot of time and is very convenient. In fact, 55% (T3B) say we’ll shop online/ via app for groceries in the future. Perhaps many of us have decided someone else can pick out a ripe cantaloupe for us after all.

Shopping online for clothing, shoes and accessories has been a strong trend for several years. Statista reported that as of May 2020, nearly 40% of ALL apparel and accessories sales were online and sales have continued to experience a steady annual growth rate since 2003 (Fashion e-commerce Report, Mar 1, 2021).

But unlike the need for food, buying clothes wasn’t a necessity. For many, working from home and stay-at-home orders meant the obligation for certain kinds of clothes, shoes and accessories screeched to a halt. Over 60% (T3B) agreed spending on clothing, shoes and accessories decreased tremendously during the pandemic.

But all was not lost. Numerous direct-to-consumer and Omnichannel businesses thrived, such as Overstock and Target. Forty-three percent (T3B) of us report we ‘boredom shopped’ online for clothing, shoes and other items we didn’t really need and 44% (T3B) are buying more of these items now that we’re getting out more. Additionally, only 24% strongly agree (TB) that we never stopped shopping in-person, at stores, for clothes, shoes and accessories.

Based on our research, shopping online/ via app for clothing, shoes and accessories is wildly popular. About 70% (T3B) agree that it’s very convenient and saves a lot of time. Over half of us (T3B) agree we’d rather shop online/ via app for clothes, shoes and accessories than in-store because ‘if it doesn’t fit/ work for me most of the time I can return it for free’. Over half (T3B) also agree that ‘trying things on in-store is a big hassle’ and we ‘don’t find sales staff to be very helpful or available’.

What once were reasons to love ‘going shopping’ have now become negatives to the overall shopping experience in our online, virtual world. So much so that over two-thirds (T3B) of us will shop online/ via app for clothes, shoes, accessories in the future.

Household goods, covering various products in all shapes and sizes, appear less popular for online purchases than other categories. Over half (T3B) of us never/ rarely shopped for household products online/ via app before the pandemic, and over half (T3B) never/ rarely stopped shopping for them in-person, at stores.

Like grocery stores, most businesses that sold household products and goods remained open in the US during the pandemic. Hence, consumers were able to shop in-store or via curbside pickup for items. Curbside pickup -perhaps considered a hybrid shopping experience by many- experienced significant increases during the pandemic. According to a Businesswire report (Sept 24, 2020), 85% of shoppers significantly increased curbside pickup orders compared to pre-COVID rates.

But shopping for household products online clearly has its benefits. Over 70% (T3B) agree that shopping for household products online/ via app is very convenient and saves a lot of time.

We’d be remiss not to mention Amazon in a discussion about online shopping. Obviously. With a profit increase of nearly 200% since the start of the pandemic and as the world’s leading global e-commerce market, Amazon arguably set the stage to mainstream online shopping across almost every category for consumers. 

Amazon’s success lit the fire under others, but the pandemic fanned the flames. To compete, brands have embraced tactics including simple and free shipping and returns, new ways to pay, subscription boxes, try-before-you-buy, direct buy social media campaigns and more to hold our attention just long enough to make the sale. The most successful businesses of 2021 have gone to great lengths to make their online shopping experience second-to-none and know it’s one of the most important long-term investments for a profitable future.

Our ‘In the kNOW’ series tackles the burning questions we all want to know about, right NOW. If you have questions you think we should ask, topics we should explore, things you’d like to learn more about, shoot me a note at