The Homebody Economy and its Implications for E-commerce

Last year, we learned to stay home. Millions of Americans shifted from downtown offices to living rooms or home offices. Many of us switched to buying groceries online. Beyond these essential items, though, we changed our habits and spending patterns in many ways, both small and large. With more people spending time at home, consumers smashed records for home decor spending. Unable to go to salons or coffee shops for their usual self-care routines, people undertook new soothing routines from home; between 2019 and 2020, there was a 250% increase in Google searches for self-care items. These widespread trends, now known in some circles as an ever-growing “homebody economy,” will be the financial movers and shakers of the year. Below, we analyze what that means for e-commerce businesses.

How Much has the Homebody Economy Changed Things? Will it Stick Around After COVID?

While 2020 was a clear accelerant of the massive market for staying at home, the trend didn’t begin here. Nor will it end when COVID is over. One of the most popular analyses of the growing billions that lie in the introvert market was published by Vox in 2018. The article explains that, often, millennials are staying home because they can’t afford to do otherwise. However, many are choosing to find joy in the lifestyle. 

We saw the same wave this year – while most people weren’t delighted with the prospect of staying inside their homes and apartments for months, they largely made the best of their space. That’s why we saw such big increases in spending on fitness equipment, cooking gear, gardening tools, home improvement paraphernalia, and wall art. Folks wanted to enjoy the space that was now home, school, and office rolled into one.

While the urgency of the pandemic will eventually go away as more people are vaccinated, staying home is here to stay. Many businesses aren’t planning to go back to the office. Even after COVID passes, a huge number of consumers are planning to continue their increased online shopping. Beyond that, millennials and Gen Z will continue to drive the homebody economy for the same reasons outlined in the Vox article.

What Does the Homebody Economy Mean for E-Commerce?

In short, we can confidently say that online shopping will continue to represent a growing market segment. If you own or are considering starting an e-commerce business, here are some traits of the homebody economy to help you capture the tide of online spending.

  • Higher expectations: A large majority of customers have higher expectations of the digital shopping experience since the pandemic occurred. To avoid losing customers, businesses need to live up to those expectations, which leads us to the next point.
  • A need for intuitive UX and easy answers: Customers need to be able to find and purchase what they need, quickly and without frustration. This looks like “Add to Cart” buttons on category pages so that customers don’t have to visit individual product pages, a one-step checkout that doesn’t ask for too much information, and readily accessible FAQ’s and reviews so visitors can get all the details they need. If you don’t already have live chat or email support, now is the time to get it. Increasingly, young users don’t want to get on the phone or visit a brick and mortar store for support.
  • Brand loyalty as a key tool: In 2020, a majority of consumers changed brands. For new companies, this is a boon. Shifting loyalty means there’s a gap in the marketplace where new brand relationships can be established. To get and keep customers, online stores will need to create unique benefits that attracts new buyers and creates loyalty. Find what sets your e-commerce business apart and get serious about marketing it. Need help? See our post about unique value propositions here.

As e-commerce enthusiasts, we are eagerly anticipating the industry trends the homebody economy will continue to bring! What online shopping trends do you think will emerge in 2021?

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Chantelle Gossner

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