According to a new survey by MIT researchers, 34.1% of US workers had switched from commuting to working at home because of the coronavirus pandemic as of April. Add this to the 14.6% of workers who said they were already telecommuting before COVID-19, and that means 48.7% of the workforce is working from home. That’s huge.
An exclusive look at Yotpo’s proprietary consumer shopping data shows how the home category continued to grow in the first half of 2020.
We are still learning to live with COVID-19, so we don’t yet know what the future of work will look like. But now that telecommuting has gone mainstream, the work-from-home culture is expected to persist even after offices reopen on a wide scale.
How has telecommuting caused changes in consumer spending?
There are three areas where we see the largest changes in consumer spending thanks to the shift to remote work.
The first category deals with the spaces and the physical infrastructure of a home office.
Interior design firm Storey Design told Recode that people are already starting to think about reconfiguring their homes in a way to better accommodate working from home. Working at the kitchen counter isn’t a long-term solution, and converting a den or partitioning a room could be on the agenda.
Sales for work at home gear are already on the upswing. Overstock.com said home office furniture sales have doubled, and Best Buy is selling more laptops, monitors and webcams.
Next, there are the goods and services that support home workers.
This category of spending has shifted because workers are no longer stopping at the neighborhood cafe, dropping by their coworker’s cubicle or visiting the neighborhood gym after work. Instead, telecommuters are buying snacks to keep at their desks, investing in communication tools and buying home gym equipment.
The third way that telecommuting has changed spending is a move toward convenient shopping methods.
Before COVID-19, we had already started to see convenience as a driver of sales, but the pandemic has accelerated this trend. Services such as grocery delivery are a convenient way to shop while also supporting social-distancing efforts. Similarly, automated purchasing such as Amazon’s Subscribe & Save lets buyers sign up for regular product deliveries of items that are commonly used. When purchases can be automated and delivered, it takes the stress off of a telecommuter who could already be juggling work and possibly child care.
What categories are relevant to the work-from-home segment?
Stay-at-home goods and services have created unique buying patterns. We’ve seen the evidence of this in the stock market, in Google searches and sales data.
These product and service categories are especially relevant to the work-from-home segment.
Home office goods are an important sector right now as employees need to create effective workspaces. Home office equipment such as stand up desks have seen a surge in interest. Focus on health is also affecting furniture choices. In March, Google searches for “desk” increased by 36% while searches for “standing desk” doubled.
Of course, tech continues to be a big deal. Workers need solutions for productivity and communications. Telecommuters are purchasing gadgets such as webcams, extra monitors, and faster routers. Computing has also spiked, and during March, search volume for “laptop” increased by 79%, surpassing Black Friday.
Telecommuters are also looking for healthy snacks as a way to power through the workday and products that are shelf-stable and do not need to be refrigerated are seeing the biggest benefit. For example, CHOMPS beef jerky can be bought in bulk and can be stashed in a desk drawer. As a whole, the demand for jerky and dried meats has increased by 187% during the coronavirus outbreak.
Food delivery is also up through services such as DoorDash and Instacart. DoorDash is the fastest-growing service during the coronavirus pandemic, seeing 21% revenue growth in March, compared to 14% growth across the total meal delivery industry.
At-home training equipment has also become an important buying trend for telecommuters and gym alternatives like in-home suspension training from TRX have spiked. Peleton’s sales have increased by 66% and its app subscribers are up 64%.
How can your brand connect with the work-from-home crowd?
Consumer products targeting the work-from-home sector are poised to explode this year and beyond. Here’s what you can do to position your brand for this target market.
1. Grow a loyal base of support
Your customer relationship shouldn’t be a one-and-done. This is as true for smaller products such as beef jerky as it is for office furniture. By growing brand relationships, you’ll earn repeat shoppers.
If you focus your attention on growing customer loyalty, you can improve CLV and create a steady pipeline for purchasing. Plus, loyal customers also become brand advocates. They will tell their friends, engage on social media, and expand your brand reach.
The viral effects of brand loyalty have prompted many D2C companies to become consumer darlings. From Chubbies shorts to Glossier beauty products, customer enthusiasm and brand love can cement your company as “essential” to the household.
To encourage and grow brand loyalty, use an integrated loyalty program that provides the tools to go beyond a traditional points program. You can offer rewards for actions like leaving a review or sharing a social media post. You can also build enthusiasm with insider product offerings.
2. Build an online community
The isolation of home offices has created an opportunity for brands to engage telecommuters with online communities.
As Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh explains, “The longer everybody is cooped up, the more of a shock there will be to the system, and it may take longer for the consumer to come back. That’s why I think it’s really important that we continue to build our relationship with the consumer during this period of time of isolation. We’re not going to let them forget about Levi’s.”
There are countless opportunities to build connections with the work-from-home community. You can host livestream webinars or highlight customer product photos on your social feeds.
It’s also valuable to find ways for your audience to connect with each other. For example, if brand fans connect while talking about your products at a virtual happy hour, their brand love could grow exponentially.
By getting creative about how you build a community during the coronavirus, your brand could emerge from COVID-19 with a thriving fanbase.
3. Use tech to win at e-commerce
There’s no doubt that online shopping and interaction will reign supreme for the foreseeable future. The opportunities you have to embrace technology in your customer interactions can give you a competitive edge.
Consider how you could drive revenue by syndicating your on-site product reviews across the Google ecosystem or how you could use integrations to build a better buyer journey.
Reviews, ratings and user-generated content can self-perpetuate business growth. When browsers see positive feedback and stylish photos shared with reviews, they’ll be tempted by the social proof. This is especially true for telecommuters who will more heavily rely on digital interactions.
Raj Nijjer is vice president of marketing at Yotpo, a leading commerce marketing cloud in New York. Prior to joining Yotpo, Raj spent more than three years at Yext in multiple leadership roles through its IPO in 2017. Raj also spent nine years at Godaddy in leadership roles launching innovative product lines with over nine patents issued and leading to a buyout, inclusive of an eventual IPO.