We’re more than halfway into 2020 and it’s safe to say many consumers and brands are still figuring out what constitutes their “new normal.” Retailers in particular have had to deal with a number of challenges, from navigating quarantine to keeping up with evolving consumer behaviors to resolving supply chain problems.

While there is no roadmap for how to recover after a pandemic, consumer behaviors on social media give retailers a pretty good idea of what to expect post-COVID. As consumers move past their initial stages of disorientation and frustration, they’re starting to think about life after quarantine, planning for milestones like weddings and dreaming of their next getaway. And they’re planning for that future on Pinterest.

While some consumers are eager to get back to a sense of normalcy, many of the habits developed in quarantine are here to stay. In this article, we’ll use Pinterest search trends to map out what consumers are most looking forward to and how retailers should prepare for a post-COVID world.

Pinterest search trends are filled with optimism

Consumers have gone from panic buying to DIYing to making plans for the future in a span of a few months.

When brick and mortar retailers initially closed for business, consumers were in search of anything that would provide immediate relief. Pinterest data from March to early May revealed a spike in searches for things like easy pantry recipes and activities to entertain kids stuck at home. Searches for “home office” increased 150% while searches for “DIY haircuts” jumped 400% from the end of March to the beginning of April.

By early spring, Pinners began to show signs of going back to their pre-pandemic lifestyles. Searches for travel, future apartments and weddings steadily increased as consumers increasingly grew restless at home. Summer parties, for example, are on consumers’ minds with searches for the term jumping 50% in the first two weeks of April. Road trips are also making a comeback. Searches for “road trip packing” are up 237% year-over-year, and Pinners are planning specific trips to places like Utah, South Dakota and national parks.

Recognizing the shift in sentiment, State Farm began publishing Pins with tips for planning an effective and safe road trip.

These forward-looking searches suggest consumers’ growing optimism, and recognizing this shift in sentiment is critical for retailers planning their comebacks. Humans are resilient. And retailers need to match that resiliency while balancing changing consumer expectations, emerging safety guidelines and a situation that remains in constant flux.

When the pandemic first hit, customers wanted empathy and understanding. Now, as they become eager for normalcy, they want brands to help fulfill their plans for their future and encourage their sense of optimism. For retailers, it’s not enough to meet the needs of your customers today; you also need to consider how to meet their needs in the future.

Online services aren’t going anywhere

Customers may be eager to get back to their pre-COVID routines, but some habits developed during the pandemic are likely to become permanent.

Ecommerce and delivery services, for example, are going to stick around for the long run even after people are free to shop in-person. The number of consumers who now shop for groceries online has grown 40% over the last year to nearly half of all consumers, while the number of online purchases Pinterest drove to grocery stores jumped 70% from February to March.

Not only is ecommerce considered safer than in-person shopping, it also affords customers a level of convenience they may not have realized before. Consumers have just spent several months buying essentials online and having things like groceries delivered to their doorstep. What was once considered a nice-to-have option is now part of their day-to-day behaviors, and nine out of 10 consumers say they’re more likely to choose retailers based on convenience.

Acknowledging customers’ demands for safe, hassle-free shopping, Shipt uses Pinterest to promote its same-day grocery delivery service.

With safety and convenience top of mind for customers, online shopping is paramount for retailers’ long term survival. Even as some states relax their lockdown restrictions, retailers would be wise to go all in on their digital channels and expand contactless delivery and pickup options. Research shows only 37% of consumers plan on going back to shopping in physical stores after quarantine ends. If ecommerce wasn’t a big part of your retail strategy before, it certainly should be now.

Every moment counts

From graduations to birthdays to weddings, the pandemic cancelled a number of milestones typically celebrated in the springtime. But as consumers grow increasingly optimistic about the future, they’re looking to double down on the holiday season to make up for lost celebrations.

In fact, Pinners are starting their planning earlier than ever, with Pinterest holiday searches up 77% in April 2020 compared to April 2019. Around the world, 50% of Pinners say they want brands to help make the holidays extra special this year. At the same time, brands need to recognize 40% of consumers will be spending on a budget. And it’s not just the big holidays, like Christmas or Thanksgiving, that people are looking forward to. Seventy percent of Pinners say they’re ready to celebrate smaller traditions as well.

For retailers, this means no moment is too small to ignore. Holidays like Friendsgiving are just as important as Thanksgiving, and features like expedited shipping and guaranteed delivery will distinguish leading retailers from the rest. After months of quarantine, customers are looking for a reason to celebrate and retailers need to be ready to help bring those moments to fruition.

Consumers, for example, are spending their summers thinking about Halloween and Target is already promoting pins for spooky outdoor decorations.

Retailers need to look ahead

To say it’s been a tough year is an understatement. But as we enter the second half of 2020 and consumers settle into their new normal, there’s reason for retailers to be optimistic.

With consumers already planning for their futures, it’s not too early for retailers to also be thinking of life after COVID—but with a few minor tweaks. For starters, digital commerce is going to be a fixture for retailers moving forward. And every milestone, big and small, carries greater meaning and value than they did in the past. If retailers want to meet their customers in a post-COVID world, they’ll need to look to consumer behaviors to inform the adjustments they need to make to their operations today.

Ready to plan for life after COVID? Check out our 5-step Pinterest marketing guide for tips on how to get the most out of your Pinterest strategy today.