Digital Living And Post-COVID America

man online shopping wearing mask

The late, somewhat eccentric economist Howard Ruff famously said, “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.” It’s a meditation on fiscal preparedness. As it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, there wasn’t even time for Ruff’s maxim to apply. Just chaos and aftermath.

PYMNTS has tracked the sentiments of Americans swept up by the pandemic flood, surveying more than 12,000 consumers over the past 10 weeks to discern the outlines of a recovery. In The Great Reopening: Tracking Digital’s Quantum Leap edition, the latest installment, PYMNTS surveyed nearly 3,000 U.S. consumers asking how their daily lives have changed during two months of coast-to-coast lockdowns. For some, life has changed permanently.

Noting the biggest changes first, the digital shift is having a profound impact on American life and may have lasting effects. While roughly four out of 10 consumers surveyed are using digital channels to engage in activities more often than they did before the pandemic, “Our survey shows that 5.5 percent of all consumers have gone online to engage in such activities and plan to keep doing so somewhat more often than they did before, while 22.9 percent said they do not plan to do any of those activities offline in the future,” according to the new report.

The digital shift is more marked among younger generational cohorts like millennials and Gen Y, and those with higher incomes.

Tracking Digital’s Quantum Leap states that “… 47 percent of millennials have shifted their routines online, while 45.1 percent of bridge millennials and 41.8 percent of Generation X consumers have done so. This shows that while millennials have always been prolific eCommerce shoppers, the pandemic has made them even more inclined to shop online.”

PYMNTS research notes differences across types of merchandise as well. We found that consumers “… are more likely to shop for retail goods online than they are to purchase items from restaurants, for example. Our research shows that 32.8 percent of consumers are shopping for retail goods just as often as they did before the pandemic but are doing so online. This compares to 12.8 percent and 16.1 percent who have gone online more often to shop for groceries or order from restaurants, respectively.”

When it comes to getting back out and mingling with the rest of humanity again, the COVID-19 fear factor materializes clearly again. According to The Great Reopening: Tracking Digital’s Quantum Leap, “The majority of consumers are not particularly interested in leaving their homes more often than they do now, but their interest levels vary depending on their post-pandemic plans. Those who have not gone online to manage their routine purchases are the most eager to leave their homes more, with 31.2 percent saying they are ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ interested in doing so.”

It’s not that surprising a reaction, given the dread that novel coronavirus generates. To put it plainly, respondents are afraid of dying from COVID-19, and that won’t go away soon.

“Consumers who plan to continue their current digital channel usage after the pandemic is over are the most likely to cite [catching COVID-19] as a concern. Our research shows 48.3 percent of consumers who plan to use digital channels to manage their post-pandemic lives as much as they do now fear they might die from COVID-19. This compares to 46.5 percent of those who plan to either partially or totally revert to their pre-pandemic routines who say the same.”



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.