NEW YORK—Consumer trend experts offered attendees of the latest Vision Monday Leadership Summit session detailed analyses of how the global pandemic has changed shopping habits. Speaking at the Aug. 11 Summit, John Dick, founder and CEO of CivicScience, and Stephanie Clarke, SVP, practice head-consumer and lifestyle at Red Havas looked at how shopping behaviors and retail as a whole have changed in the past year and a half and discussed the trends they predict will carry over into 2022 and beyond. In separate presentations, Dick and Clarke cited statistics indicating that a growing number of older Americans are using online shopping and telehealth platforms, and that eyewear businesses are leveraging social media as another point of sale, among other key trends.

Registered attendees can watch the session, as well as the June 23 VM Summit session, on demand through the Summit platform, and registration is still open. Registration and other program details are available here.

CivicScience conducts large representative surveys of U.S. consumers every day through polling embedded in a large network of partner websites. With over 5 million responses a day and 250,000 topics covered, CivicScience’s reach is vast and diverse both geographically and demographically.

One of the most important takeaways of Dick’s research is the power of the consumer, especially now in a world so heavily shaped by COVID-19. CivicScience’s research underscores that consumers are the ones who really dictate retail recovery, rather than the government—in fact, of those surveyed by CivicScience, 25 percent of Americans said they would only resume some normal activities if all government restrictions were lifted today. 38 percent said they’d resume all activities, while 7 percent said they would remain in quarantine. “The truth of the matter,” Dick said, “is the consumer has always had the power throughout this entire pandemic... to understand that is to understand not only how the pandemic has progressed but how it’s going to recover.”

Throughout his presentation, Dick covered CivicScience’s research on vaccines, heading back to school and back to school spending, online shopping and telemedicine. Most notably, CivicScience found that the pandemic has “created a new generation of older, digitally-savvy consumers,” bringing a new demographic to what was once targeted mostly at Millennials and Gen Z. Pre-pandemic, just 3 percent of U.S. Americans over the age of 55 said they’d used telemedicine—today, that number is 39 percent. And older Americans are not just engaged in virtual healthcare, they’re also having a positive experience with it. When it comes to teleoptometry, CivicScience found that 34 percent of those who are “very or somewhat satisfied” with virtual optometry care are 55 and older.

While the pandemic largely necessitated that jump, it’s likely that some patients will want to continue using telemedicine, even after others begin to return to in-person appointments. Dick pointed out, “[These patients] may not necessarily return to see their eye doctor in person because they had a pretty good experience doing it online,” underscoring just how important it is to always adapt to what consumers react positively to.

Next, Stephanie Clarke, SVP, practice head-consumer and lifestyle at Red Havas, took a deep dive into the use of social media as a shopping platform. Consumers today can start and complete transactions directly on social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram, or can be directed to complete transactions from platforms such as Pinterest and TikTok.

Clarke underscored just how much the face of retail is changing, saying, “if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past year, it’s that things can change so quickly. For many industries, e-commerce sales increased so significantly in just a matter of weeks. Now, it’s what does that mean in our next normal.” Still today, a year and a half into the pandemic, Clarke says that 80 percent of U.S. consumers are still changing the way they shop, and about 60 percent are visiting brick and mortar stores less frequently than they did before the pandemic. Additionally, almost 45 percent shop more frequently online for things they would’ve bought in-store in the past.

Merging e-commerce and social media has also accelerated over the past year and a half, Clarke said. Time spent on social media increased over the pandemic—and the number of consumers shopping on social media increased by over 25 percent last year alone. Social media, then, is “a great way to meet your customers where they are already spending their time.”

Social commerce creates a frictionless and incredibly personalized shopping experience; Clarke highlighted Ray-Ban, which hosts a “here today, gone tomorrow” initiative on Instagram, featuring a heavily discounted frame for just one day. The entire transaction is done within the Instagram app, and because the deals change often, it brings both a sense of urgency and repeat customers who want to see the new deals.

Even those who are not using social media as an e-commerce platform should work on having a strong social media presence, Clarke said. Moving forward, “consumers will be more intentional about how they spend their time. Social media purchasing will play a role as will online and in-store.”

Vision Monday’s multi-part Summit program, "CREATIVE DISRUPTION, THE NEW NOW: How to Survive It. Why You Need It." culminates in an in-person live + virtual event on Wednesday, Sept 22 in Las Vegas, called "Retail & Healthcare: UPENDED! Ripping Up The Rulebook." Details about that program and registration info will be posted soon.

Registered attendees can watch the August 11 and June 23 sessions on-demand through the special Summit platform; registration includes both virtual broadcasts, full access to the VM Summit virtual platform, networking, on-demand viewing and exclusive access to attendees-only content after the event. Optometrists, opticians, ophthalmologists and students can register for no charge. All other industry registration is $99. Registration and other program details are posted here.

The Platinum Sponsors of the 2021 VM Leadership Summit are EssilorLuxottica, Healthy Eyes Advantage-PECAA and VSP Global Premier Program. The Gold Sponsor is The Vision Council's Vision Health Alliance and the Silver Sponsors are Alcon and Ocuco.