Pandemic Purchasing Patterns
The New Normal
Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed lifestyles, personal habits, and created a deep chasm between “before” and “after.” We were interested in exploring how the pandemic affected people’s shopping behavior. Schema, along with Axios and Alberto Cairo, worked with the Google News Initiative to create The New Normal: an interactive data visualization of search intent around commonly purchased products and the search patterns evident pre-pandemic through the end of 2021. Using keywords pulled from Google’s product taxonomy, this project divides the data into three categories: “Normal” (trends that remained unaffected by the pandemic), “Unusual” (trends that spiked or showed unusual behavior), and “New Normal” (unusual trends that persisted into 2021). View the full site here.
For this project to succeed, we needed to select a data set that would approximate a standard “basket” of goods. We used Google’s product taxonomy, spanning all products ever listed on Google Shopping. This taxonomy features nested categories that get increasingly specific.
Once we had collated the data, we sorted the patterns of search interest into meaningful categories that told a story. We decided to compare the pattern trends in three phases: what they looked like pre-pandemic, what they became after the pandemic had been declared, and how they evolved as the pandemic unfolded. We selected 300 keywords whose trends communicated a spectrum of shopping behavior from pre-pandemic through the end of 2021. The shopping trends reflected in these phases were then divided into the prevailing categories of “Normal”, “Unusual,” and “New Normal.”
This simple framework gives the site an exploratory approach to storytelling; the user is given autonomy to make their own conclusions about what the data communicates.