2000 people share how their travel and shopping behaviors have changed

Arity · September 29, 2021 · 5 min read
In March 2021, Arity reached out to a couple thousand adults to get their perspectives on how behaviors have changed in the first part of 2021 due to COVID.

Remember the craziness of the second week of March 2020? The stock market plummeted, the NBA and other sports leagues suspended their seasons, and national treasure Tom Hanks announced he had Covid. We entered a new world seemingly overnight – a world of stay-at-home orders, business shutdowns, and mask mandates.

The pandemic dramatically impacted where we went and how we got there, how and where we shopped, and activities we did outside of the house. Most people shifted their behaviors to stay home and avoid contact with people. They worked from home, shopped from home, and even ordered groceries and take-out from home at a level not seen before.  

A year later, in March 2021, which of these new pandemic-driven behaviors were still around? Which behaviors had gone back to “normal”, and which seemed to be sticking? 

These are important questions for businesses of all types; we can’t plan ahead or develop effective business strategies without understanding how customers’ travel and shopping behaviors are evolving. 

To support business partners and the overall community, Arity researchers set out to get answers to these questions. 

Extrapolating insights from mobility data is what Arity is good at, but that’s not always the same as hearing directly from drivers. On a regular basis, Arity also asks people directly about their perspectives on how they are going from point A to point B.  

In March 2021, we asked a nationally representative sample of almost 2,000 U.S. adults about their travel and shopping behaviors. The survey asked questions about how and how often they traveled or shopped earlier this year, the impact of COVID-19 on their travel and shopping, and what their reasons any changes to their behaviors.  

Here are our key findings:  

How Shopping Habits Have Changed Since the Start of COVID-19 

According to our survey, in March people still saw a return to normal as a far way off. Only 4% said we were already back to normal and fewer than half expected life to return to normal within 9 months. Most people, about 70% were still wearing masks always or almost always. 

In March 2021, many people were still practicing some key travel and shopping behaviors ushered in by the pandemic. Nearly half (49%) reported that they were traveling less often. They were also shopping online more than before the pandemic, with 39% saying they shopped online more often. These findings suggest that these behavior changes might be long lasting.

Impact of COVID-19 on travel and shopping

What about takeout food and grocery delivery? These behaviors were split down the middle, with 20% reporting they were doing so more often and another 20% saying less often. Avoiding COVID-19 was the most significant reason for change in all behaviors reported. People also pointed to cooking more at home for changes to their takeout and grocery delivery habits, which again may be another long-term change in consumer behavior.

Shopping and traveling were not the only activities that were still impacted by the pandemic in March 2021. People were also curtailing other activities such as going to the movies, going to live events, eating at restaurants, going to bars, and socializing with friends and family. About 60 to 70% of people who engage in these activities reported doing them less often.  

They were more likely to maintain more essential activities, like going to medical appointments and going to the grocery store. Still, around 35-40% of people reported doing these activities less often, too.

Percent who report doing activity less often

These perspectives were captured the month before most of the US opened to travel, in-store shopping, and restaurant dining without restrictions, and it was about the same time that vaccines became widely available in the US. Was there a major shift in travel and shopping behaviors throughout summer 2021? Have online shopping, ordering takeout, and grocery delivery decreased? We’ll be looking at the data in our next survey to see what has occurred during these past summer months and into the fall.  

Understanding how people move in near real time is helping support smarter business decisions, such as predicting inventory and staffing needs, and providing the information to create promotions that their customers need and want at the right times. 

Our next driving and transportation survey is scheduled for this fall.  

For more insight on how telematics data brings travel and shopping behavior changes to light, check out these Arity articles: 

For driving insights on specific locations, timeframes, demographics, and more that are most important to your business, contact Arity. 

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