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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Consumer Behavior Has Shifted Significantly During Pandemic, Survey Reveals

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about significant shifts in people’s behaviors, from a sharp increase in telework and online commerce, to a significant decrease in the number of personal trips people make. Understanding the effects of these rapid changes on the economy, supply chains, and the environment is essential, as some of these behaviors will continue even after the pandemic has ended.

José Holguín-Veras, the director of the Center for Infrastructure, Transportation, and the Environment at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Cara Wang, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rensselaer, are part of a research team conducting a series of surveys in an effort to quantify and understand these unprecedented shifts. 

For instance, according to the team’s surveys, the number of monthly work trips people made during the start of the pandemic decreased by 60%. Post-pandemic, respondents believe they will still be making fewer work trips than before, down by 8.2%.

Monthly grocery store trips decreased by 41.6% when the pandemic happened, with some people shopping less frequently and others shifting to grocery purchases online. Post-pandemic, survey respondents expect to return to the grocery store more often, but still less than before the pandemic began, by about 8.2%.

In contrast, monthly delivery of groceries increased by 132.2% during the pandemic, a trend that may not disappear once the pandemic is over. Respondents expect that post-pandemic, their monthly grocery deliveries will still be 63.8% higher than before COVID-19. While all package deliveries increased during this pandemic period, the grocery delivery increase was the largest.

The researchers hope their findings help policymakers develop future policies to offset not just the effects of COVID-19, but also the lasting changes that may result even after the pandemic has ended. Holguín-Veras and Wang are available to talk about the research team’s findings, and the importance of understanding these significant shifts.

 




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