America’s definition of what’s “essential” has changed


Consumers are expanding what they consider essential and they’re spending more.

BOSTON, Mass. (March 31, 2020) — As the coronavirus spread from coast to coast, Americans have been forced to reconsider what they deem necessary for daily life, redefining what we now consider “essential.” Overnight, the global COVID-19 pandemic instantly changed the status quo. Social distancing precautions have forced many businesses to close temporarily, leaving thousands jobless and seeking help. Others have migrated from long daily commutes to working remotely. Many Americans are struggling to balance the competing demands of work, health, well-being, and kids who are out of school for the foreseeable future. Not only have the pace and priorities of daily life changed; so, too, has consumer buying behavior, according to new research conducted by Klaviyo, the world’s leading owned marketing platform.

“From the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen a shift in consumer behavior—people are spending more and they’re shopping more online. As more states take more precautionary measures and put in place stay at home advisories or shelter-in-place orders, this shift will undoubtedly continue as consumers invest more in their at-home environments than they ever have before,”

Andrew Bialecki
CEO and co-founder of Klaviyo


To get a pulse on how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting the world of ecommerce, Klaviyo launched two daily polls. One is a consumer-focused poll, which seeks to understand how consumer buying behaviors are changing; the other is a business-focused poll, which seeks to understand the impact of the pandemic on ecommerce brands in terms of week-over-week sales and how they’re adjusting their customer engagement and marketing strategies as a result.

Based on more than 1,400 responses from consumers and ecommerce business owners and marketers collected since March 18, 2020, data shows that the definition of what Americans deem essential has changed.

Consumers are actively spending money now. Of those surveyed, forty percent said they’ve spent at least fifty percent more than they typically would and nineteen percent said they’ve spent twice as much, if not more than normal. At the start of March, American consumers were focused on purchasing basic necessities: food, non-perishables, cleaning products, and paper products—items that provide some level of safety in a time of uncertainty.

In the days that followed, Americans increasingly began purchasing products that would help them feel more comfortable in their new home-based lifestyle. Most notably, the businesses seeing the greatest increase in consumption are those that sell food and beverage products. In the wake of many stores running low or out of stock and fears about contagion proliferating, consumers increasingly turned to online vendors to provide them with such essentials. In some cases, these businesses were seeing week-over-week sales increases of more than forty percent.

The data also shows consumers have increased spending on educational products to help maintain their children’s academic needs while schools across the country are closed, as well as games and toys that keep both themselves and their children entertained and occupied amid social distancing precautions. When asked why they made these purchases, one respondent simply said, we need to “keep the kids busy.” Thirty percent of respondents have already made purchases from this category with twenty percent looking to invest here in the coming weeks.

which types of products have you bought in the last 2 weeks 3-26

Klaviyo’s data shows consumers are also spending on health and fitness-related goods to help them maintain healthy lifestyles while gyms and other fitness centers are closed indefinitely. So far, thirty-five percent of respondents have already spent on this category and twenty-six percent intend to invest in health and fitness products in the next two to three weeks.

which types of products are you considering buying in the next 2-3 weeks 3-26

These new essentials—educational products, toys and games, and health and fitness-related items—are the items that help consumers maintain some semblance of normal life and they’re what consumers are increasingly purchasing at the moment.

Online businesses that fall into these “new essentials” categories report increases of sales between 40-300 percent, week-over-week, while some businesses say they’ve experienced recording-breaking days that rival Cyber Weekend sales.

Meanwhile, brands that don’t fall into these “new essentials” categories report seeing sales declines of more than 40 percent, week-over-week, with the data showing that industries like general apparel and accessories, jewelry, and luxury goods are seemingly the hardest hit.

“Klaviyo has a widespread community of more than 30,000 brands spanning 82 countries that sell online. With the economic shifts that are unfolding, it’s our responsibility to support existing online businesses and businesses that are moving online by sharing the timely, relevant data we’re collecting in order to help them make informed daily decisions” said Bialecki.

Here’s how to take Klaviyo’s daily polls:


About Klaviyo

Klaviyo is the world’s leading owned marketing platform known for accelerating revenue for online businesses using the channels they own like email, web, SMS, and mobile apps. Enabling companies to leverage these owned marketing channels, Klaviyo makes it easy to store, access, analyze, and use transactional and behavioral data to power highly-targeted customer and prospect communications. And unlike other marketing platforms, Klaviyo doesn’t force companies to compromise between advanced functionality or ease of use so companies of all sizes are able to maximize their sales quickly. That’s why over 30,000 innovative companies like Unilever, Custom Ink, and Brooklinen sell more with Klaviyo. Learn how they’re doing it at

Poll Methodology

The daily polls have been conducted online since March 18, 2020. More than 1,400 responses have been submitted by online business owners, ecommerce marketers, and consumers.

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