June 21, 2021 / in Pandemic
By now it's a cliché; to say that the pandemic has forever changed how we shop. The enduring lockdowns, retail closures, and stay-at-home orders pushed most of us out of our normal habits and pulled new online products and services into the limelight. Ecommerce activity soared in 2020 as consumers flocked online to stock up on home office furniture, masks, sweatpants, and flour for all our shelter-in-place needs.
Now, with ongoing vaccine distribution and lifting lockdown orders, the key questions all business owners must answer are: how do they plan a product strategy that's pandemic-proof? Should stores keep stocking up on 2020's hottest items, or should they turn their attention to new categories? And as online businesses prepare for spending to shift once retail is back in full force, how can they keep the customers they've already earned?
We turned to shoppers themselves for clues into the future: we worked with a research group to survey 3,000 North Americans in April 2021 about their post-pandemic shopping plans. Where are their dollars headed once the pandemic is over?
Below is a list of the top ten categories of products shoppers plan to buy post-pandemic. Let them inspire new items to add to an existing brand, or perhaps, to start a new one.
Is there a secret pandemic baby boom happening? Despite headlines proclaiming a “COVID baby bust” this year, our research found that 24% of parents and parents-to-be expect to spend more on baby items post-pandemic.
The audience makes perfect sense for ecommerce: busy parents value the convenience and safety of online shopping more than any other demographic. And unlike their adult variety, most baby items are viewed more as commodities rather than items where you'd spend a ton of time shopping in-store. In other words, once you find a baby formula you like, you stick with it. As one shopper we surveyed said, With craft supplies and baby toys, I don't have to worry about size and prefer online shopping.”
Even though it's a crowded category, there's still plenty of opportunity to break into the You could curate items under a brand, or specialize in a niche product. Functional items, like baby bottles, diapers, bibs, might yield lower margins, but they're also ripe for subscription based revenue. For those with a more creative bent, novelty items like toys, books, and crafts, could generate higher margins, but also cost more to acquire new customers.
Not interested in product development? You could start a reseller business where your focus is on marketing and selling products made by other companies.
Lauren Sotto, a Shopify employee who runs McCoy Kids, curates sustainable, heirloom-quality” brands and items both online and retail. Her online marketing strategy focuses on adding differentiators, or reasons why customers would come to her store versus buying directly from brands and marketplaces. For example, she advises brands to consider specialized gift services. "We've been very successful offering free gift wrap/messaging and free local delivery," Lauren says.
Organic Baby Shop is another reseller that specializes in importing European formula—believed by many parents to be superior to American formula. By finding an in-demand niche, they can focus less on their own branding and more on providing responsive customer service and shipping and fulfillment.
From orchestras to yoga centers and book clubs, companies in the entertainment and education business scrambled to get online when lockdowns began. Fortunately for these resilient businesses, consumer appetite for virtual learning will likely continue post-pandemic. Why? Perhaps it’s the safety and immunity from new virus strains. Or perhaps we all love the convenience of being able to take a class, or watch a live concert, from anywhere in the world.
For example, pre-pandemic I would’ve had to fly to Rome and take a chartered bus ride out to attend one of Nonna Nerina’s famous live cooking demos. Now, the 84-year-old grandmother hosts her classes virtually. And although all her dishes can be made with local supermarket ingredients, Nonna also sells Italian-imported pantry items.
Yoga Wild, a studio based in Washington state, launched on-demand virtual classes during the pandemic for a low subscription fee. They also showcase shorter, free versions. Virtual classes help the teachers maintain relationships with existing students, and expand their reach to new ones who may return to studios or continue online.
Another benefit of virtual classes and experiences is that you can easily turn them into video ads for multiple platforms, thereby extending your reach. Besides your own store, you could recut the same video for all your favorite social networks, YouTube, etc.
It’s worth noting that this “category” was the most polarizing amongst consumers. While 23% planned to spend more on virtual classes and experiences in a post-pandemic world, 20% planned to spend less on this category.
Miss that sweaty communal gym feel? Not I. And apparently, not a lot of others: nearly 30% of American gym-goers don't plan on returning to a gym until 2022, at the earliest. After more than a year of ditching gyms for retrofitted home gyms and outdoor trails, it's no wonder that 19% of consumers plan to spend more on exercise equipment, even as gyms reopen.
Strength Fitness USA combines personal or commercial gym equipment with white-glove service. Owner Joe Serrao began the store in 2016 after spending the first part of his career as an electrical engineer. For selling high-ticket items, like gym retrofits, Joe thinks the best marketing strategy is testimonials.
"Nothing will help you stand out like generating real, positive customer reviews,” Joe says. Provide exemplary customer service. Be genuinely helpful and interested in your customers' needs and well-being. This will all work together to help you succeed/
If you dont have a warehouse to store all that bulky fitness equipment, dropshipping might be a more accessible route. Dropshipping lets you choose and market in-demand products that are manufactured and shipped by a third party.
Were also bullish on bike saddles, one of the top trending products we identified earlier this year. Search volume for the term bike saddles” is getting 22,200 searchs per month. People are also looking for more specific types, such as “comfortable bike saddles”; (12,100/mo), “mountain bike saddles” (3,600/mo), and “road bike saddles”; (4,400/mo). Other bicycle equipment is also likely to remain stable through the warmer seasons as consumers stick to their new, COVID-era mode of transportation.
Even as demand for cleaning products settles down from our pandemic stockpiling days, 19% of consumers plan to buy more cleaning products as things return to normal.
Cleaning products can be added to an existing product portfolio, too. For example, Hello Green is an Australian store selling eco-friendly household brands for items like reusable baby food pouches and disposable cutlery. During the pandemic, they expanded their lineup of cleaning products, appealing to the eco-conscious with green solutions to sanitizers, laundry detergent, and more.
Cleaning products are ripe for retention opportunities, given most of us stick with a product we like and repurchase them without thought. For example, you could offer subscriptions which give shoppers a convenient, personalized, and slightly discounted way to automatically buy what they need on a recurring basis. You could also breed customer loyalty through a rewards program.;
If you’re a Shopify store owner, you can start or add a subscription business model with our plug-and-play apps.
It’s projected that the global beauty industry will be worth a jaw-dropping $756 billion by 2026. And although most beauty products are bought in retail, the pandemic has activated plenty of online beauty consumers. 47% of consumers bought more beauty products online in 2020, and 17% plan to buy even more post-pandemic as we venture back into the real world where fine lines and wrinkles come in HD.
If you’re already an avid consumer and researcher of beauty products, this might be the category for you. Your first step is deciding what to sell in a very broad category: there’s makeup, haircare, and skincare, to name a few.
After that, you need to learn everything you can about your target audience: who influences them, where they hang out online, where they discover new beauty products, etc.
SUGAR Cosmetics founder Vineeta Singh spotted a gap in the market for cosmetics that complement Indian skin tones. Going against what every other Indian cosmetic brand did at the time, she aimed her label squarely at young women who followed global beauty trends but wanted things to be “Indianized” for them, as Singh describes it. She also employed many women in her target audience, which became a perfect testing ground for new concepts.
Personal care is one of the most stable industries you can join. Pandemic or not, we need (or try) to maintain our personal hygiene routines.
And apparently, few of us miss buying toothpaste in real life. 40% of consumers bought more personal care products online during the pandemic, and 17% plan to buy more of this after the pandemic. From shampoo to razors and menstrual pads, the pandemic gave us the opportunity to skip those humdrum trips to the drugstore and head straight to online retailers.
What should you sell? Soap is a safe bet, as 71% of those surveyed said they plan to wash their hands more even after COVID-19 is but a distant memory. Soaps and bath bombs are ripe for DIY-ers and don’t require expensive storage space.
Alternatively, you could focus on differentiating yourself from the generics of the world through high-quality formulations. Twice is a premium toothpaste brand backed by Lenny Kravitz, and invented by a family of dentists. It boasts vitamins and antioxidants, and uses 100% recyclable packaging.
Twice lets its happy customers do the talking, showcasing more than 1,000 positive reviews on their Shopify store. To inspire confidence in a first-time customer, they also offer a 100% money back guarantee and no minimums for canceling a subscription, and donate 10% of company profits to charity.
Founder Julian Levine told us in an episode of Shopify Masters that features tell, but benefits sell, “At the end of the day, you need to have a product that really speaks to the consumer, and showcases to them how it's going to improve their lives,” says Julian.