The summer of 2021 has been defined by shoppers looking to get back outside and enjoy the warm weather, but work-from-home and back-to-school essentials remained at the top of consumers’ minds, according to data from Verizon Media. So even though shoppers spent plenty of time outdoors, their overall habits still reflect the way they spent most of 2020.
“Consumer spending is such an indicator of what’s happening in the world,” said Andrea Wasserman, Head of Global Commerce, Verizon Media in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Across Verizon Media’s commerce business we’re seeing that products with dual usage — for both at home and outside — surge. We’re unfortunately not out of the COVID pandemic by a long shot, and you can see this hybrid way of living reflected in what people are buying. Fashion, footwear, beauty, electronics — shoppers are spending in categories and on products you can use and enjoy at home just as much as you’ll use outside.”
Verizon Media tracked products clicked across all its brands, including Yahoo!, In The Know, AOL and Engadget between Memorial Day and the end of July, and noted several trends:
- Apparel and beauty categories reflect that people are preparing for both live and online events, with an emphasis on items like lipstick, tops and headphones that are useful whether you’re out on the town or in a Zoom meeting;
- The indoor habits of the pandemic are still strong, with interest in stationary bikes and robotic vacuums driven by improving technology and falling prices; and
- Marketing efforts that focus on interactive entertainment online are paying dividends with greater appeal to a wider range of shoppers, thanks to increased comfort with ecommerce and new trends that lend themselves to online experiences.
Flexibility Between In-Person and Online Events Fuel Lipstick and Apparel Purchases
Two of the categories with the highest click-through rates across Yahoo, In The Know and Engadget were lipstick and footwear. This pairing reflects the current social environment — greater interest in lipstick-related content is a sign that people are dressing up to go out, but it’s also great to have whether you’re headed back to the office or still working from home, according to Wasserman.
In the case of footwear, shoppers interested in updating their shoes are clearly planning on going outside more often. However, Wasserman noted that “we’ve sold a significant amount of sneakers and sandals this season at an affordable price point,” which is a reminder of the economic impact of the pandemic and a sign that savings are still top of mind for many shoppers.
Affordable basics and tops also were popular, combining the need to continue “dressing up top” for video calls with interest in refreshing wardrobes for the warmer months.
“It’s indicative of what we’re seeing culturally right now,” said Wasserman. “People are gearing up for a fall like no other as most schools return to in-person, but businesses differ — from requiring staff back to the office post-Labor Day to maintaining a work-from-home policy or pivoting to a full-time hybrid model.”
The intersection of at-home and outdoors is impacting electronics sales as well, with headphones particularly popular. In the current environment they fit the bill as a piece of equipment that can be useful as a work-from-home essential or as an accessory for runs, walks or commutes.
Stationary Bikes and Robotic Vacuums Benefit From Lingering Pandemic Habits
Some other popular items didn’t quite match the indoor-outdoor trend but rather continued riding momentum from 2020. Stationary bikes were a major category over the summer, thanks to the innovations of Peloton and other companies that have turned them from compact treadmills into flexible workout machines.
“As these gain in popularity and new models are released, there are more affordable options than ever before too,” said Wasserman. “For parents who have had kids at home over the past year plus, stationary bikes provide a great outlet for exercise and a mental health break, all without having to leave kids home alone.”
Another top category was robotic vacuums, which were among the most clicked-on items. Their popularity is associated with shoppers who are stuck at home, rather than going back outside, but their appeal after a year spent mostly inside is undeniable.
“Robotic vacuums have been one of our most popular products across brands like Yahoo Life, Engadget and In The Know since the pandemic began,” said Wasserman. “Perhaps because while people began spending more time at home, they didn’t necessarily want to spend that time cleaning. In general robotic vacuums have seen continued popularity for a few reasons. The technology keeps improving, [and] products continue to become more affordable, therefore mainstream.”
Online Experiences Have Become More Important Than Ever
Regardless of whether shoppers spend more time outdoors or hunker down in the fall, the importance of entertainment will remain high, according to Wasserman. Retailers putting in the effort to entertain, rather than simply sell, are being rewarded by customers.
“We’re seeing high engagement when shopping content meets entertainment,” said Wasserman. “Take for example shoppable video. Shoppable video experiences meet the viewers where they are, have the potential to unlock valuable user data, and empower brands to connect with consumers through more meaningful interactions. Shoppers can get a better sense of what might look best on them, whether it’s the right size or shade of make-up, via livestream shopping. The experience also creates a sense of community.”
One area where this has paid off is in kitchenware and dining products. This was partly due to consumers beginning to host again over the summer, but also because they’re more interested in cooking at home — which means they’re more interested in cooking-related content.
“Of the products that go viral on a platform like TikTok, a majority are kitchen- and dining-related,” said Wasserman. “In The Know has a Snapchat series, Tried It, that is especially popular with a Gen-Z audience identifying as male — and exemplifies this trend. In this series, the Tried It host tests viral cooking gadgets, from a rotating pizza oven to a dairy alternative vegan milk maker to a high speed smart toaster.”
While the fact that shopping habits have moved online isn’t exactly news, retailers should note that the shift is proving to be at least somewhat permanent. Retailers should be keeping their customers’ online habits in mind as we head into the fall and the weather cools down once more.
“Consumers, especially older audiences, adapted and became more comfortable using technology to replicate an in-store shopping experience,” said Wasserman. “Today, while people are returning to shopping in-store when and where they can, consumers are also more comfortable and savvy with the online shopping experience. [In fact[, they’re scouting the best deals and times to make purchases.“