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COVID-19

Will online shopping habits change after the pandemic passes?

Mitchell Hartman Feb 1, 2021
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eMarketer projects that Amazon sold nearly half a trillion dollars worth of stuff in 2020. Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Will online shopping habits change after the pandemic passes?

Mitchell Hartman Feb 1, 2021
Heard on:
eMarketer projects that Amazon sold nearly half a trillion dollars worth of stuff in 2020. Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The global e-commerce giant Amazon is set to report its fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday. The company has taken its growth to a whole new level during the pandemic since all of the lockdowns and brick-and-mortar store closures and restrictions have sent millions more American consumers shopping online.

What does it mean for this e-commerce juggernaut that vaccination is proceeding and economic reopening may be on the horizon?

Market research company eMarketer projects that Amazon sold nearly half a trillion dollars worth of stuff last year. That would be 37% more than the year before.

eMarketer analyst Andrew Lipsman said Amazon’s gained market share against its brick-and-mortar-bound competitors as consumers rushed to buy online.

“The big question about some of these habits people have adopted with e-commerce is, what carries forward? The biggest category is grocery, household essentials, where Amazon’s really well positioned,” Lipsman said, with its Prime service and extensive network of fulfillment centers.

One risk going forward, said Nick Shields at Third Bridge, is that Amazon’s growing market power could turn consumers off.

“From a sort of PR and marketing standpoint, they should be worried about some of these efforts among consumers to shop at their local small businesses,” Shields said.

And, he said, once the economy reopens, some new Amazon customers could go back to shopping in person because they missed it in the pandemic.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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