In May, one in four U.S. adults (28 percent) said they knew someone diagnosed with Covid-19, according to Pew. In just five months, that number swelled to 68 percent, according to an October 2020 NBC News poll

In short, the pandemic has turned personal for most Americans. Thus, it's easy to see why there's such a tectonic shift in shopper behavior. The public health scare is bringing about three structural changes to the U.S. economy: a move to e-commerce and contactless business processes; work from home (WFH); and a rise of do-it-yourself projects.

While most industries are negatively impacted by the pandemic, the ongoing transformation is creating lucrative opportunities for online sellers, distributors, and affiliate marketers. Here are top trending product categories in the new normal.

OTC Medicine

Greater health awareness bodes well for sellers and distributors of over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, which is now the fastest growing category online, according to August 2020 McKinsey research. OTC medicines are seeing 44 percent growth in online purchases, and they're expected to increase 10 percent even after Covid.

I spoke with Jeff Hill and Ryan Farmer, founders of Manna, a liposomal vitamin company whose OTC products are used by celebrity doctors and Olympic athletes. Hill says the major shift toward e-commerce has significantly boosted sales for medicinal and dietary-supplement providers. "In Manna's case," he says, "we now have tens of thousands of customers and continue to scale fast."

Digital brings the dual advantages of being both a sales and education platform. Hill believes more people are researching OTC treatments and supplements that may be more effective than traditional, but more expensive, health solutions. For example, just think of the explosive growth of the cannabidiol (CBD) market. "Consumer education is a priority for our business, as well as producing the highest-quality vitamins on the market," says Hill.

Groceries 

Last year, consumers spent just 10.5 percent of their grocery budget online. That jumped to 27.9 percent in March and April 2020, according to the Food Industry Association. Distributors and gig drivers have an opportunity to generate revenue (or get a job in a recession) by moving food from shelves to dinner tables for millions more consumers who are online.

According to the same McKinsey research, online-based grocery is seeing 41 percent growth, which is second only to OTC medicines. E-commerce, curbside delivery, and home delivery of food are obviously seeing strong demand. But there's also an urgent need to expand food-related infrastructure such as cold-storage facilities and distribution centers. 

Cold storage refers to temperature-controlled warehouses that keep food cold. They improve safety processes, as well as last-mile delivery capabilities. A September 2020 survey by Food Insight found that 46 percent of Americans are very concerned about food contamination while 39 percent are very concerned about the presence of allergens.  

Cold-storage facilities are in low supply, with a national vacancy rate of 10 percent before the pandemic struck. And many of the existing cold warehouses are old. According to an October 2020 survey by Duff & Phelps, 36 percent of senior real estate professionals and investors believe the industrial and logistics businesses (such as warehouses) are sectors that will emerge strongest from the crisis.

Household Supplies 

There are certain household goods that are seeing a spike in demand. 

According to research firm Glimpse, these include nail kits (431 percent increase), paintbrushes (97 percent), mice for laptops (80 percent), flour (295 percent), and toilet paper (146 percent). Other popular items are breadmakers (288 percent), evaporated milk (168 percent), laundry sanitizer (388 percent), and vitamin C gummies (150 percent).

It's easy to see why. As Americans work and study from home, they use more household supplies instead of using such items at the office or school. Online sellers can capture these opportunities by focusing their capital on much-needed inventory such as the items mentioned above, and selling them directly to consumers.

The new normal is a result of changes in attitudes, paradigms, and lifestyle. There is widespread caution with practices and behaviors that are perceived as unsafe. And, therefore, consumers will adopt processes and buy products that minimize their risks of acquiring an illness.