How COVID-19 Has Shifted Online Behavior

Consumer Behavior, COVID-19

The pandemic has changed how we live in many ways. With lockdowns, restrictions, and a reduction in activities done outside the home, there’s been a shift to more time spent indoors — and online. Now, so much of our daily lives take place online: staying connected with loved ones, remote meetings, virtual learning, Zoom exercise classes and parties, and of course, online shopping. Read on to catch up on how online behavior has evolved and how you can add to the conversation in a meaningful way.

Seeking Connection, Entertainment, and Engagement

With an increase in social distancing precautions and travel restrictions, people have sought new ways to stay connected to friends and family with video calls on platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype. As an escape from the seriousness of the situation, streaming entertainment has also seen an uptick, with almost 60% of internet users[1] watching more shows and films on streaming services. Social media has also seen a spike, with nearly 50% of internet users spending longer on social media and messenger services.[2]

As your audience spends more time online, this is an opportunity for you to connect with them. Double down on your engagement efforts by using more themed content, hosting an influencer for a chat or holding a contest to build a shared experience. By being authentic and posting positive, engaging content, you can rally your audience around your brand and continue to build their trust.


Post More Meaningful Content

With restrictions on social activities worldwide, fewer people post online about new restaurants, parties, and travel. As a result, social media is finding a more meaningful purpose. Users now reveal more personal and real stories as we all go through this shared experience, and even influencers who once flaunted picture-perfect lifestyles have been brought back to reality, sharing personal stories of their own struggles. This could have a positive result on wellness and mental health of social media users who once felt they could never live up to an influencer lifestyle as they realize that everyone is facing the same challenges.

As a brand, you can show your support by addressing concerns. Share what safety precautions you’re taking, run a campaign or contest to bring people together while staying apart, or even produce or sell products with your consumer’s health in mind like masks and sanitizers if it’s within your capabilities.

Online Activism

With everyone spending more time at home and online, social issues that were once in the dark have gained visibility, and consumers are paying attention to who is illuminating them. With social media channels being used to express voices for social activism, now all it takes is the click of a button to spread the word, support a campaign, and add to the conversation.

For brands and businesses, online activism is a fine line to walk. You don’t want to ostracize anyone in your audience if your views disagree with theirs, or come across as inauthentic if it seems like you’re jumping on the bandwagon. If you feel strongly about showing your support, make sure the cause aligns with your brand, do your research, and back up your stance with meaningful action.


Shopping Online

An average of 47% of internet users reported spending more time shopping online in recent weeks, with 33% shopping online for food and groceries or household essentials.[3] With online shopping a much safer and convenient option, fewer shoppers can see and experience products in-store, so they must rely on online product descriptions and social proof like reviews and feedback from trusted sources like influencers and bloggers to make their decision.

The power of a positive review should not be underestimated. Today, online reviews are the biggest source of social proof, and they have a clear impact on sales. In fact, 90% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase and 72% will be prompted to take action after reading positive reviews.[4]

Another form of social proof that can help convert a customer is through a trusted symbol such as the PTPA Seal of Approval. When consumers see that other shoppers have confidence in the product, they’ll be more likely to trust and purchase it themselves.


As online behavior continues to evolve during this unprecedented time, we’re all learning how to cope with these changes together. As a brand, the most important thing you can do is stay authentic to your values so you can deliver consistency to your audience throughout this time of uncertainty.


[1],[2],[3] Brown, Eileen. “COVID-19 has significantly changed our media habits according to new report.” ZDNet, ZDNet, 2020.

[4] Barthwal, Manish. “Why Product Reviews Are Important in Ecommerce?” Knowband Blog | Ecommerce Modules, 2020.