Has Covid-19 changed shopping forever?

New research shows Americans overwhelmingly have flocked to online shopping during the pandemic, and consumers are looking for fast delivery, free returns, less packaging and more sustainable material.

Consumers have rushed to online shopping, a “seismic shift” that will  steadily grow if retailers provide convenient deliveries and environmentally friendly packaging, according to a DS Smith survey with important cues for businesses eager to flourish in a post-lockdown world.

The national survey by DS Smith, a leading paper, packaging and recycling company, found that the pandemic may have permanently changed Americans’ buying habits, with 85% of online shoppers saying they will continue to shop online at the same level or more, even after stay-at-home rules are lifted.

The company has provided critical support of the e-commerce industry and supply chain amid the rush to web-based shopping. Nearly two-thirds of consumers polled say they are shopping online more than before the coronavirus outbreak, chiefly because it’s a safe and convenient way to get what they need.

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“There has been a seismic shift in the way consumers are shopping and we’ve been using our expertise to support businesses of all sizes with the rapid growth of e-commerce so they can survive and thrive through this uncertain time,” said ​Mark Ushpol, managing director of packaging at DS Smith.

"What's clear is that as lockdowns ease, these trends aren't likely to fall away. Consumers have found new confidence and convenience in the way they shop, buying a whole range of items online – everything from groceries to toiletries to fitness products. If companies are not already transforming their business to meet this new age of e-commerce, they risk being left behind,” Ushpol said. ​

Some DS Smith customers have doubled and even tripled their e-commerce orders, requiring essential businesses like DS Smith to remain open to meet the increased demand for packaging.

For instance, while some major U.S. cosmetics companies have reported a 30% spike in sales, the DS Smith survey showed there still is room to grow. About 74% of Americans plan to buy beauty products online at the same rate or more as lockdown restrictions are relaxed.

Although bars and clubs have remained shuttered in many cities, overall alcohol sales in the US have jumped 16% during the lockdown period compared to 2019. And 40% of survey respondents have bought fitness equipment online at the same level or more during the lockdown.

Beyond the health care crisis, nearly four out of 10 consumers say they most likely would stick with online shopping if delivery times were faster and retailers offered free returns.

In another signal of consumer sentiment, one in five shoppers say they’d likely continue buying online if items were delivered with less packaging or used more sustainable material. About that same number say they’d prefer items delivered in more recyclable packaging.

The embrace of environmentally friendly and protective packing aligns squarely with DS Smith’s production values as a sustainable leader that promotes a circular economy to reduce consumption, waste and pollution by keeping products in use.

“We're eager to help brands and businesses navigate this path and work with them so that they can benefit from sustainable packaging solutions that their customers desire,” Ushpol said.

Media contacts

Sarah Kettenburg

Sarah Kettenburg

Hill+Knowlton Strategies

+1 813-760-4605

David Lindsay

David Lindsay

Media and Communications Manager