The Consumer is Changing: COVID-19 accelerates online shopping habits

The shutdown of physical stores is making consumers question their traditional shopping habits. Those who had previously been reluctant to shop online are now forging ahead online. This means that retailers must adapt along with their changing audience.

As the pandemic brought forth by the novel coronavirus continues to reshape our world, consumers are changing. According to new data from IBM’s U.S. Retail Index, the pandemic has accelerated the shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by roughly five years.

In this new reality that we are facing, retailers and brands must pivot online to remain competitive or risk getting left behind as consumers evolve. Consumer attitudes, behaviors and spending habits are changing and many of these will remain long after the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world. The changes we make now will have lasting effects as the world economy begins to recover,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.

Ditto’s clients saw a 30% increase in eCommerce website visitors in 2020, driven by the pandemic. This has caused many organizations to prioritize digital/engineering projects and improve their online customer experiences – both historical points of friction that were holding back online growth.

Shutdowns are forcing consumers to question their shopping habits long-term

The shutdown of physical stores is making consumers question their traditional shopping habits. Those who had previously been reluctant to shop online are now forging ahead online. This means that retailers must adapt along with their changing audience. 

As COVID concerns continue to rise and the longing for normalcy seems farther and farther away, the pandemic is inevitably driving the shopping landscape towards eCommerce.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed online shopping behaviors, according to a survey of about 3,700 consumers in nine emerging and developed economies. The survey, entitled “COVID-19 and E-commerce”, examined how the pandemic has changed the way consumers use e-commerce and digital solutions.

“Companies that put e-commerce at the heart of their business strategies are prepared for the post-COVID-19 era,” said Yomi Kastro, founder and CEO of Inveon.

For a long time online shopping has been slowly but steadily been acquiring sales from offline shopping methods. Since the shutdown of physical stores, online shopping has accelerated. Those who had previously frequented physical stores are now experiencing the conveniences of online shopping and realizing they can buy anything — even prescription, luxury eyewear — online.

Compelling Digital Shopping Experiences with Virtual Try-On

Historically, eyewear has been notoriously challenging to buy online. This is due to fit uncertainty, an overwhelming selection of frames coupled with a low frequency of purchase, the desire to use vision insurance which isn’t accepted widely online, the need for specific measurements like your pupillary distance, the need for a valid prescription and the friction around finding and submitting an existing prescription. It’s no wonder eyewear has been a lagging category to other retail segments with regards to online penetration.  

That said, the shift online is inevitable as customers broadly change their purchasing behavior across categories. Additionally, there are new technology solutions to address each of the friction points above.

One of Ditto’s technology offerings is eyeglasses and sunglasses virtual try-on. This allows customers to virtually try on eyewear using their mobile devices or webcam to see how eyewear will fit and look, without the use of physical frames.  Virtual try-on is becoming table stakes in many categories. 

According to the WSJ, 40% of companies expect to adopt an online service, like virtual try-on, in the next 6-12 months.

This is true for eyewear too. “If you don’t have virtual try-on these days, you are outdated.” – Axel Delker, CEO of Delker Optik

Ditto’s other eCommerce product offerings include an automated face shape detector, an automated pupillary distance measurement tool, automatic classification of other important facial measurements and features (e.g. face width, temple length, bridge height) and a robust frame recommendation engine. These are all aimed at reducing the friction around frame discovery so customers can easily discover their Perfect PairTM of eyeglasses or sunglasses. 

These solutions can be used by eyewear eCommerce sites, traditional eyewear retailers, eyewear brands, eyewear frame manufacturers, and more. 



The new customer habits developing now will be here to stay, long after the COVID-19 pandemic. To keep your organization above water and thriving, be sure you get ahead of the change and adopt new technologies that will make your online business thrive and stay relevant to your customers as their needs change.


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