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The Impact of COVID-19 on Online Commerce

A study by PWC « Global Consumer Insights Survey »

The arrival of the COVID-19 virus and reinforced social distancing measures have accelerated the shift toward online shopping. While consumer preference still leans toward in-store shopping, 35% have now embraced online grocery shopping, and 86% plan to continue this practice after physical distancing measures are lifted.

Regarding non-food products, before the pandemic, in-store shopping dominated, with 47% of respondents stating they shopped in physical stores once a day or weekly, compared to 30% via mobile phones and 28% via laptops. However, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, online spending has surged: 45% of participants reported increasing their online purchases via smartphones, while 41% did the same through their laptops.

The economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have catalyzed a true digital revolution. As new virtual habits have taken root, the trajectory toward an increasingly digital world has become more pronounced. The trend of online shopping is expected to gain momentum, implicitly urging businesses and retailers to reinvent themselves. Companies with the necessary technology and creativity to offer exceptional at-home or nearby experiences will have a significant advantage, at least in the short term," explains Filip Lozie, a Partner at PwC Belgium.

Growing emphasis on self-Care in response to COVID-19

Consumer awareness of sustainability and health has also increased. Before the pandemic, nearly half of consumers expressed a willingness to adjust their eating habits to adopt a healthier lifestyle. The study shows that the health crisis has significantly accelerated this trend, with consumers paying greater attention to other aspects of their well-being. For example, 69% are more concerned about their mental well-being and physical fitness. 64% say they are more attentive to their medical needs, and 63% aspire to eat more healthily, in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mental Health and Well-Being


Physical Health


Medical Needs


Dietary Regimen



The study also reveals a strong consumer desire to adopt more sustainable practices. Indeed, 45% of respondents worldwide express a desire to minimize the use of plastic, 43% expect companies to take responsibility for their environmental impact, and 41% rely on retailers to eliminate plastic bags and packaging from perishable products.

Another notable aspect is the opinions of participants regarding who is responsible for promoting sustainable behaviors in their city. Approximately 20% designated "themselves, as consumers," while 15% mentioned "the producer or manufacturer.

" Filip Lozie, Partner at PwC Belgium, explains: "While some trends had already been growing for some time, our study reveals that the pandemic has heightened consumer desires for transparency, sustainability, and user-friendliness. Now, consumers expect their health and safety to be priorities. During our 11 years of consumer studies worldwide, we have never seen such a strong consensus on themes like transparency, sustainability, and social responsibility. In this crucial time, it is more important than ever for businesses addressing consumers to establish a trusting relationship with their potential customers.

Lower spending forecasts for the upcoming year

The pandemic has also had an impact on the planned spending pattern, which is a direct consequence. While the consumer confidence indicator was at -6 at the end of 2019, it dropped to -20 in July 2020 (BNB).

Consumer confidence was relatively high before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, as the study also confirms before the crisis, about 46% of consumers planned to increase their spending in the following year. However, with the coronavirus crisis, 40% of those surveyed reported a decrease in their incomes. As a result, 36% of consumers now intend to reduce their spending.


In summary, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered consumer shopping habits globally. Online shopping has seen a substantial surge, placing technology at the heart of this new economic reality. Concerns related to health, sustainability, and mental well-being have become more important than ever for consumers, and transparency in business practices has become a key value.

However, these changes have not occurred without challenges. Consumer confidence has been shaken by the crisis, leading to a forecast of reduced spending in the coming year. Rapid adaptation of businesses to this new reality, meeting consumer expectations for sustainability and safety, and establishing strong trust-based relationships are essential for economic recovery.

Ultimately, COVID-19 has left a lasting mark on shopping habits, which will continue to influence the global business landscape for years to come.

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