Online shopping is helping people cope with the COVID-19 pandemic [Survey]

John Howard

If your phone hasn’t already notified you, your screen time may have escalated recently. In the wake of COVID-19, we’re looking for ways to pass time, to entertain ourselves, and to cope, so it makes sense. Screens of any kind are often a way to find escapism as well as connection, but it may be online shopping in particular that’s aiding us all through the pandemic. 

We spoke to 1,015 people across the U.S. currently living through (and coping with) the coronavirus. Many of them found their shopping habits taking an interesting turn during these unprecedented times. But the quarantine customer wasn’t always making frivolous purchases. To see what buying online in the time of a pandemic really looks like, keep reading.

Shopping Habits in Quarantine

Online shopping certainly isn’t what it was before: Since the pandemic, 64.8% of respondents have shopped “more” or even “much more” than they did before. On average, they started making four purchases online each week, which took about three hours of their time to do so. 

These purchases, however, were doing more than just bringing items on a scheduled delivery date. Instead, online retail was providing a true coping mechanism for many pandemic shoppers. Fifty-five percent agreed that online shopping reduces panic during the pandemic, while 67% said they specifically made an online purchase to cope with the pandemic. Perhaps this was something essential for the home, something to solve boredom, or just a result of ads accompanying added screen time. Either way, it’s important to be conscientious about your purchases and shop ethically when possible. 

Respondents who lost their income entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic were actually the most likely to start spending more, specifically as a coping mechanism. Since the pandemic began, 74% of unemployed people have done exactly that. Millennials, the generation some say took the hardest financial hit from the virus, were also the most likely generation to engage in more online shopping as the pandemic took hold. Evidently, the drive to shop as a coping mechanism may be stronger than that of having money to spend. 

Exploring Consumer Behavior 

Even though making a purchase immediately after job loss may seem counterintuitive, relatively few online shoppers regretted their decisions. Of those unemployed during the pandemic, just 22% experienced buyer’s remorse after a quarantined purchase. And this was even considering some questionable buying behavior: 38% of respondents had made a purchase after midnight, and 58% made purchases they didn’t actually need at the time, but hoped to utilize later. 

Even though the shopping was done digitally, the pandemic still made the process somewhat difficult for online retail. Seventy-three percent of respondents were unable to make a purchase because an item had been sold out. At the time of the writing of this article, some essentials like toilet tissue are still hard to find online. Fortunately, it’s not impossible if you know where to look. Other respondents had filled up their shopping carts and ultimately decided not to complete the order. 

Pandemic Checkout

Even though nonessential stores were primarily the ones closed, it was often essential items people went to the internet to obtain. Food and groceries, which 64.7% had purchased online since the pandemic, had already racked up an average tab of $256. Nearly 30% bought pet supplies, and 12.3% had spent $103 on alcohol – liquor stores are also considered essential businesses in many states. 

Frivolous purchases did occur in quarantine as well. Shoes were the single highest spend category of any group studied, with shoe shoppers spending $284, and counting. Clothing and beauty were also two of the top three spending categories, racking up a $109 and $64 price tag since quarantine started, respectively. 

Spending was only somewhat likely to go higher if charitable efforts were involved. Only 40% of respondents were more likely to make a purchase if proceeds went toward a COVID-19 relief effort. And only 26.3% had actually donated any money to the cause. 

Delivery Risks

When it was finally time to receive ordered goods, nearly 1 in 3 people were very or extremely concerned about contracting the virus from the package itself, and those living with high-risk individuals (36%) were even more concerned

Everybody, save for 8%, had taken precautions when opening a package. On average, respondents had waited five hours before unwrapping their delivery packages. Depending on the material, however, this may not be enough time for these particular germs to perish. The most recent available information suggests that COVID-19 can survive on cardboard for a full 24 hours. If you do have perishables in the package that need to be opened sooner, make sure to bring the food directly from the box into the kitchen, instead of putting the package on the counter and opening it there. 

Another 53.8% avoided contact with the delivery person, a method whose effect follows the logic of social distancing. If you can avoid the drop-off area for at least three hours, you’ll likely have run out the clock for airborne transmission of the disease. That said, germs could still be thriving on the materials. In spite of their concern, 60% of respondents still opened their packages immediately upon arrival. And only 21.7% wore gloves when picking them up. 

COVID-19 and Coping

Online shopping and coping seem to go hand in hand, particularly during the pandemic. With so many physical stores closed, online shopping has provided access to essential goods that some may not have otherwise. It provides a lifeline for some of the businesses attempting to remain open and connected with their customers. Further, our data showed that shopping online has even become an effective coping mechanism. People shopped online to find relief, to pass the time, and to enjoy new things. Very few had regrets, while nearly everyone was being safe and exercising precaution when their packages arrived. 

If finances are holding you back from shopping online and enjoying the benefits of this coping mechanism, Coupon Lawn is here to help. Coupon Lawn scours the entire internet for the best possible deals every single day. Each day’s top coupons as well as a treasure trove of other discounts are all available for you to browse. Maybe it can get you a discount on that next pandemic purchase you’ve been eyeing. 

Fair Use 
The pandemic has a lot of us leaning on the internet for support. If you’d like to keep that support going by sharing the contents of this study elsewhere online, you are welcome to do so. As long as your purposes are noncommercial and you link back to this page, we think it’s a great idea.