The Effect Of Changing Consumer Behavior On Retail

Fashion & Lifestyle Ecommerce9 min read

Since the beginning of March, over one-third of the world population has been under lockdown, resulting in a shift in online shopping behavior in many markets. As many countries have now entered their recovery phase, let’s dig deeper into our shoppers’ behavior in order to understand the impact of COVID-19 on shopping trends – and also, which user behaviors emerged due to the pandemic.

COVID-19 shopping trends l Post-lockdown shopping trends l User behaviors predictions

COVID-19 lockdown: which shopping trends emerged and what will be the new normal?

First things first, let’s talk about demand. It would be a lie to say that demand volume in fashion didn’t drop: all over the world, companies saw double-digit revenue losses, resulting in furloughs and/or layoffs for many of them. While we saw a -20% drop in demand across our 16 markets following the first week of the pandemic in Europe (a similar trend to the one Accenture was presenting in its April 2019 consumer behavior report), consumers’ focus actually switched to personal hygiene products, online entertainment, and food. But fashion online shopping didn’t pause completely: it just changed.

1. The rise of comfort shopping in uncomfortable times

Since many users were no longer able to work in offices or take part in social events, buying new apparel for these occasions was not deemed as a priority, and this is when the shift from formalwear to comfortable attire happened: surge in demand for loungewear showed that comfort has been the trend of the season. As for lingerie, clicks increased by 55% and interest for luxury pajamas grew by 50% compared to pre-COVID weeks. Finally, as more people tried to find ways to stay active indoors, interest in activewear surged with sports bras (+29%) and leggings (+15%) seeing the highest increase in the category.

2. DIY Beauty and at-home Spa

Comfort shopping has not been the only trend of the season: online shoppers found new ways to escape boredom, and what they’ve clicked on tells it all:

With hair salons closed as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, people have taken it upon themselves to not only cut but also dye, style, and treat their hair. Out of necessity (and for the sake of entertainment), online shoppers have taken all beauty & wellness matters into their own hands.

3. Pimp your house

As people got ready to spend more time inside, they looked for products to freshen up their spaces and improve their cooking skills: we’ve seen a +43% increase in clicks on kitchen appliances during the COVID lockdown.

4. Save Now Buy Later

What happens when you don’t know when you will actually be able to wear out your new fashion purchase? You might not buy it right away. In March 2020, we’ve reported a global increase in users saving products on their wishlists (+12% compared to pre-COVID times), especially in the USA (+27%), Italy (+11%) and France (+9%).

Are these trends here to stay? After-lockdown shopping

Of course, there is still a long way to go until we can return to the “normality” we knew, but we can already see a glimmer of hope. As restrictions lift and spending intent returns, consumers are getting excited again about the idea of dressing up. Two months after shoppers chose items like pajamas, sweatpants, and home decor as their lockdown purchases, the consumer intent to buy a wider variety of clothing will have a big impact on the recovery of the fashion industry. Let’s have a look at what happened to the above-mentioned consumer habits now that many countries lifted restrictions:

1. It’s a slow but constant recovery

While we noticed a -20% drop in demand across all markets following the first week of the European COVID pandemic on March 8th, demand is back on track, and actually even better than before: we noticed a +17% market growth globally compared to pre-COVID levels. The countries showing the fastest recovery are the UK (+21%), Italy (+27%), and the Netherlands (+31%).

2. In or out (May vs March/April)

While some season favorites such as loungewear and hair care products didn’t survive the post-COVID online shopping shift, sportswear and sustainable brands managed to successfully establish themselves as must-have products.

Winds of change: these are the user behaviors we are betting on

So what now? The last few months have definitely accelerated a change in pre-existing user behaviors that simply needed an extra boost, but which changes will have the biggest impact in the months to come?

1. The shoppable content boom

Shoppable content is definitely not a new topic, but there seems to be a change in the way people consume it. In times like the last few months we’ve just lived, shoppers expressed a desire to be more informed before purchasing, and, looking at the traffic on our shoppable content pages since the recovery, we are pretty confident that the shoppable content boom we observed during this recovery phase won’t stop anytime soon.

2. Is slow fashion the new fast fashion?

If a peak in interest for sustainable fashion was already quite prominent in 2019, investing in sustainable brands is becoming a priority for more and more shoppers, and retailers are left but little choice but to adapt: in the first quarter of 2020, we noticed a +24% YoY increase in clicks globally on conscious fashion brands. But there’s more: the Covid-lockdown seems to have given an additional boost to green fashion: Stylight’s May 2020 data shows an additional +23% growth in clicks on green brands compared to the average monthly clicks of the two previous months.

3. Mobile is winning over even the more skeptical shoppers

We all know that mobile shopping keeps increasing year over year, and despite the fact most people stayed at home for the last 3 months, it didn’t prevent them from shopping on their phone. We noticed a +20% increase in mobile traffic year over year since the beginning of confinement. An indicator that if mobile was not part of your strategy for 2020, you might want to reconsider it…

4. Home & living shopping is here to stay

Last but not least, as people are now used to spending more time inside, they are reserving more time and budget towards decorating their home spaces. On Stylight we’ve seen interest for home & living growing also throughout 2020: we reported an overall increase of +43.3% in clicks for the entire Home & Living category since the beginning of 2020.

5. How about brand performance?

For the Brand Performance Cloud Launchmetrics, with whom we discussed the effect of changing consumer behavior on retail and the media in a co-hosted webinar, a few things evolved in the wake of COVID-19. First things first, marketing: brands will be under more pressure to optimize their marketing strategies and budgets by leveraging the right data. The second of Launchmetrics’ findings regards the fact that consumers want to authentically connect more with brands – so developing the right content is critical to building this connection. Finally, relatability is key: identifying the most relatable voices and nurturing these relationships as a brand is core to any successful strategy.

To sum it up: 4 changes you cannot pretend didn’t happen

In conclusion, if there are 4 things you should remember from this article, it’s that:

  • Ethical brands are not slow anymore: the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the consumer mindset in sustainable shopping
  • We live in a mobile world; so make sure not to leave out this device when it comes to user experience
  • Shoppable content allows you to educate shoppers and to leverage moments when they have the highest intent to purchase
  • Digital innovation moves at a faster pace than before: investing in online is now no longer a choice.


This content was originally presented during a co-hosted webinar with Launchmetrics on the effect of changing consumer behavior on retail and the media.

If you speak German and are interested in hearing more specifically about the shopping trends that emerged during the COVID-19 crisis, check out this interview of Julian von Eckartsberg, CEO of Stylight, by the TV programm Galileo. 

written by:

Ilenia Sarman

Head of Brand & Content Marketing at Stylight

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