When we analyzed consumer foot traffic trends during 2020 and 2021, we had a penchant for identifying distinct behavioral phases and giving them catchy names. For example, the “Panic & Prepare” phase kicked off when the NBA canceled its season and lasted for three weeks in early 2020. It was followed by the “Quarantine Routine”, “Reemergence Ramp”, and more. As foot traffic recovered in early 2021, the trends had stabilized enough to give the cute names a break.

But in the broader context, the phase we’re in probably could be dubbed, “The Great Snap Back”. With the threat from COVID diminished for most – thanks to treatments and vaccination – we’ve witnessed consumers snap back to their pre-COVID behaviors. Foot traffic has recovered, despite rising costs. Even workplaces are slowly but steadily filling back up. COVID-era darlings like Peloton, Zoom, DocuSign have all seen their shares regress back to pre-COVID price levels.

Even online spending – whose share of total retail sales surged during COVID – has snapped back to its long term trendline:

Despite “The Great Snap Back”, we are seeing the online shopping surge persist more significantly among one key demographic: households with kids: 

The differences between parents and households without kids is stark. Parents are nearly 25% more likely to shop online at Walmart than opt for the brick-and-mortar experience compared to households without children. 

And in a way: this checks out. As COVID’s threat declined we saw pent up energy being released as people ran back to the fun behaviors they previously had to avoid – restaurants, travel, and yes… shopping. But context matters! Retail therapy is a reality for many, but (as parents can attest!) can be a trial when you’re shepherding kids.  

It’s not surprising the giant e-commerce trial spurred by COVID regressed less among parents. 

What does this mean for marketers and businesses? For one, it means you’ll need to be more targeted with your outreach advertising. An online-shopping call-to-action will be more successful when aimed towards families. 

With PlaceIQ’s audiences, you can combine demographic statements (like families with kids) with shopper audiences (like Walmart, Target, or all Big Box shoppers) to limit your online or offline calls to action in order to increase your efficiency. Some other recommended tactics include: 

•  Activate our Purchase Audiences, built off online and in-store transactions for maximum coverage.

•  Push Holiday campaigns for parents over the line by targeting Top Spender, On-Premise, and Recent Shoppers to capture the most active consumers.

•  Bridge the gap and send parents to your app, highlighting ease of pre-order, deals, and pickup options.

We’re hearing this works particularly well with PlaceIQ’s Top Holiday Spender audience included above – a segment made up of consumers who spend more than most during the holiday season. These high-spending parents with kids in home are 17% more likely to opt for online checkout. 

The “Great Snap Back” phase is certainly tricky, due to a confluence of forces muddying the behavioral waters. We aren’t simply rebounding from COVID avoidance but navigating rising prices and other macroeconomic pressures. Organizations looking to navigate shifting consumer behavior and habits should be using diversified real-world signals as well as online activity data to more efficiently message their customers. 


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