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Post-COVID Consumer Trends – What to Expect Next

The world keeps changing. We don’t have to tell you that. COVID-19 took almost everything we knew and flipped it upside down. From March 2020, work-from-home companies saw demand surge, while travel came to a virtual standstill.

But now, as we’re coming out from the other side and consumer trends are shifting once again. What’s next for the market? How did COVID-19 affect consumer behavior? What trends should you keep tabs on as the world begins the next new normal?

Using Similarweb’s industry-leading market research tool, we looked at the emerging digital trends to investigate what we might be able to expect ahead.

Post-COVID consumer trends to watch

Mobile vs. desktop  

In 2020, we saw worldwide lockdowns and a two percentage point (ppt) shift in traffic share from mobile web browsing to desktop. With the vaccine rollout in 2021, the mobile vs. desktop picture is changing once again. So far in 2021, we’re seeing a two ppt increase in mobile web browsing in the U.S. based on Similarweb’s index ranking the overall top 100 websites in the U.S.

This is significant because the change in traffic share represents a 21.4% increase in the volume of mobile web visits (111.8 billion to 135.8 billion), compared to a 16.4% increase for the category as a whole and a 12.4% increase for desktop visits.

Job classifieds and career sites surprise

COVID transformed the job market. Unemployment skyrocketed over 10% in the U.S. in August 2020. People began working from home in industries where that seemed unimaginable, including banking, insurance, and even government services. Today the employment landscape is changing again and in some surprising ways.

If we use both Indeed’s and Zip Recruiter’s separate URLs for employers and employees as a proxy for job supply vs. demand, we see that weekly desktop traffic is finally beginning to uptrend, YoY. However, it is clear that employers are returning to job sites at a faster rate than employees.

We’ve observed that while job employer traffic has had positive YoY growth since the first week in January, it hit its most recent peak the second week of April at +299.1%. As of the first week in April, job employer traffic finally netted a positive percentage growth YoY and has positively been since (with the hope that it will remain this way).

If we look at linkedin.com, we can see that it has operated more so as an outlier, likely because it does not solely function as a career listing site but also as a social network. Therefore it’s hard to equate job search strategy specifically to LinkedIn. We do know that the pandemic has increased monthly traffic overall to LinkedIn as businesses moved online.

Traffic has held relatively steady throughout the pandemic, but we can also observe annual growth. January–May YoY comparisons show that traffic to linkedin.com was up 29.1%. 

Across the Atlantic, in the U.K., on a category level, the top five job listing sites analyzed, according to May monthly traffic, were indeed.com, totaljobs.com, reed.co.uk, cv-library.co.uk, and glassdoor.co.uk.

If we use January–May as a comparative baseline for 2020 and 2021, average monthly visits to the category increased by an even more significant percentage than was seen in the U.S. at +97.5% YoY.

Mobile-first eCommerce continues to accelerate

One of the biggest consumer behavior shifts resulting from COVID-19 was the move to online shopping. If we use January–May timeframe as a comparative baseline for 2020 and 2021, average monthly visits to the top 100 eCommerce sites in the U.S. increased by 12% YoY. 

Looking at a category breakdown, the one that saw the most significant growth was home & garden, increasing in volume by 21.4% YoY. This is further exemplified as the number one fastest-growing site out of the top 100 was americanfreight.com at +634.3% YoY. With COVID-19 lockdowns forcing people to stay indoors, do-it-yourself home improvement, decor, and gardening projects became top priorities. The continued growth into 2021, reveals that this focus is sticking even as people around the world begin to return to a new normal.

Watch our Digital Edge keynote: How COVID Transformed Everything

Time to travel again? Metasearch engine trends 

The travel industry was hit exceptionally hard during the pandemic. However, since then, the industry has made a recovery.

Not surprisingly, the most significant dip in traffic occurred at the start of the pandemic dropping by a significant 117.7% between March and April 2020, from 161.7 million to 74.3 million. May 2021 traffic is now sitting at 302.5 million, which is higher than pre-pandemic levels (January 2020 sat at 268.6 million and February 2020 at 248 million). After a year at home, people are eager to get out, and travel and the sites are showing it.

Looking at the data, we can see that the week beginning March 10, 2021, was the first time that weekly traffic saw positive YoY growth, which was maintained through April. Specifically, YoY weekly traffic peaked the week of Easter, surging +251%. 

Not only are people browsing OTA sites, but they are also converting into customers, with U.S. bookings hitting 17.01 million this past May, higher than pre-pandemic levels of 16.591 million in January 2020 and 16.506 million in February 2020.

The majority of people this past month are still booking domestic travel, with the U.S. accounting for 93.7% of U.S. bookings, followed by Mexico at 0.8%, Canada at 0.5%, Puerto Rico at 0.3%, the United Kingdom at 0.3%, and Italy at 0.3%.

Another interesting consumer behavior change post-COVID trend is that we see more searches for specific cities (e.g., “Los Angeles,” “Philadelphia,” and “Seattle“) than in previous months, which is a clear sign for urban reinvigoration. Although consumers shied away from crowded areas during most of the pandemic, the tide has changed because of vaccinations and loosened mask restrictions. Today cities are attractive travel destinations for many.

Overseas travel is also starting to bounce back. In the U.K., bookings hit 2.782 million this past May, and while not higher than pre-pandemic levels, it is higher than any month YTD and 670.6% higher than May 2020.

Watch the webinar: Travel and the Impact of a Fast-Changing World 

The ticketing industry shows signs of a strong comeback

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Cultural events are another category that took a major hit as the pandemic struck but are slowly starting to turn around now.

While traffic to these sites is falling -29.4% YoY, looking month-over-month (MoM), we are starting to see signs of recovery. Beginning in January 2021, traffic is growing each month, peaking in May 2021 at +44.9% MoM. Looking at each site, livenation.com led for traffic growth, surging +143.6% MoM from April to May 2021.

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