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How has shopping behaviour changed over the pandemic?

How has shopping behaviour changed over the pandemic?
Summary: Sharing thoughts on Google’s recent survey

Google recently surveyed 5,000 people across the UK on how shopping behaviour has changed over the pandemic.

The results are a mixed bag for retailers with a bricks and mortar presence, with the key message being that the customer journey is becoming increasingly integrated across channels.

Most people responded that they expect to stay predominantly online over the next 6 months, with Fashion customers the most likely to return to stores :

Channel Shopping behaviour through pandemic

As concerns about a 3rd wave (hopefully) decrease, queuing outside becomes a distant memory, social contact becomes more natural and retailers innovate to make the shopping experience exciting again, people will return to High Streets to shop. It will, however, take time for new habits to form.

Whilst a key reason cited for shopping online is COVID-19, this is not the whole story – convenience, home delivery, ease of comparing product information and ease of finding a specific product are all described as key motivators. The older you are, the more concerned you are likely to be about COVID-19, and the younger you are the more likely you are to say that finding a specific product is easier online (particularly branded products). It will be interesting how attitudes to home delivery change as more people return to their places of work – my prediction is an upturn in drop-off points such as Collect+ and a returning pressure on delivery companies to offer timed delivery slots at affordable prices.

One key change over the pandemic is the switch to searching for ideas and inspiration online. Consumers have adopted new channels, with the highest growth being YouTube, Google Shopping, Online Marketplaces, Google search, Social Media and Blogs – the convenience of scrolling from your armchair as a form of window shopping isn’t likely to be given up easily. Consumers are now in a “constant state of discovery”, so Marketers need to work harder than ever to grab their attention amongst the constant stream of content available on a smartphone.

Over the pandemic 24% of clothing shoppers have trialled a new brand and the vast majority have adopted those brands – similar patterns are evident in Beauty and Home categories. Unsurprisingly, the younger you are, the more likely you are to have tried somewhere new. This process of discovery can be seen through the increase in more generic searches such as “best skincare”.

The digital experience doesn’t tick all of the boxes though, so people are increasingly wanting to follow a hybrid multi-channel shopping journey :

Shopping preferences online vs in store
Source : Think Google/pandemic consumer behaviour changes – Mar 21

There are also higher than ever expectations for service, with searches for digital services such as virtual try-on and live chat support growing in volume, whilst searches for “last mile” services such as next day & free delivery decline as these propositions become the norm.  It will be interesting to see how service propositions in store develop as shops open back up – my feeling is that the independent sector has set a new bar over the last lockdown which many multiples will need to raise their game to match.

There is also an interesting shopping location age bias emerging. Whilst all age groups say they’ll shop in town & city centres, 18-34 year olds are expressing a real preference for local shops over large shopping centres / retail parks. This could be about transport, access to independents or café culture…or all 3 and many more. The vision of smaller centres offering a more sustainable mix of work, residential, fitness, outdoor, community, retail and entertainment space looks like it’s starting to happen. Personally, I can’t wait.

Here’s the link to the full article

Here at WSI Digital Advisors, we’ve spent many years in multi-channel retail, helping physical and digital channels to compliment each other – find out more

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