Consumer Behavior: Now and Post Coronavirus Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our daily lives. The retail industry was already in a state of disruption, but an unforeseen event of this magnitude has accelerated dynamic shifts in consumer buying behavior. During the weeks of March 9 and March 16, Astound Commerce deployed two surveys, each canvassing 500 online global consumers, in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and the Middle East. Amid this time frame of widespread panic and uncertainty, three momentous, albeit predictable, changes in consumer behavior occurred:
1. Online Shopping Spiked 55% Globally Week-Over-Week
The forced closure of physical stores resulted in a pivot to e-commerce, with consumers securing essentials by any means necessary. Twenty-two percent of U.S. shoppers reported paying a premium as a result of running into “out-of-stocks,” up from only 3 percent during the previous week.
2. Consumers Returned to the Basics
Panic buying focused on nondiscretionary products needed to sustain governmental shelter-in-place orders, including shelf-stable food items, healthcare products and cleaners. In the U.S., discretionary items such as apparel and travel saw declines in purchasing week-over-week of 120 percent and 54 percent, respectively.
3. Pickup and Delivery Usage Skyrocketed
Due to the natural spread of the virus, 72 percent of U.S. shoppers indicated an intentional shift towards contactless interactions. This resulted in shoppers using more omnichannel services such as store pickup (U.S. up 44 percent) and delivery of food and groceries. Grocery delivery, in particular, increased by 39 percent worldwide.
As the initial shock of this pandemic wears off and shoppers settle into this new normal, what do these behavioral changes mean for retailers?
There's a Need for Compassionate Commerce
This goes beyond prolonged promotions or free/lowered shipping charges. Messaging must acknowledge the current situation and strike a tone of empathy and solidarity. Retailers should also consider extending return time frames, as well as loyalty program rewards and point expiration dates during this period of uncertainty to appease shoppers.
Shopper Expectations Have Increased Overnight
When it comes to securing essential products, the need for quick delivery has never been more critical. Omnichannel services such as store pickup, curbside delivery and store-level delivery have become a clear competitive advantage in light of current events — with contactless now a necessity — especially in the grocery sector. Shoppers will continue to expect these on-demand delivery conveniences well into the future.
Rethink Customer Engagements
As we all practice social distancing, communication is more important than ever. This is an opportunity for more creative, authentic and personalized interactions with customers. Retailers must meet shoppers where they are now — i.e., in digital channels via social, mobile, apps, etc. They should consider virtual events such as personal styling and how-to classes via video conferencing or livestreaming product launches to engage with shoppers.
Reset the Customer Journey
Shoppers faced many obstacles with online ordering, including misrepresented inventory reporting, out-of-stocks, delayed orders due to increased demand, all of which are frustrating under normal circumstances, but increasingly so during a crisis. Retailers should use this time of uncertainty as an opportunity to assess its customers’ journey from the on-site user experience down to the last mile.
In spite of dire news reports, shoppers across the globe are united in optimism: 72 percent expect the virus will be under control within six months. From a physical store perspective, 82 percent predict in-store shopping will return to normal also within a six-month span. As consumers long for a sense of normalcy, retailers can seek solace knowing that shoppers will return to stores once restrictions have been lifted.
To access the Astound Commerce Insights findings in full, click here.
Renata Akers is the digital commerce analyst for Astound Commerce, the world’s most trusted independent digital commerce specialist, empowering success through experience-driven ecosystems that fuse technology, data, design and storytelling to propel business growth.
Renata Akers is the Digital Commerce Analyst for Astound Commerce, the world’s most trusted independent digital commerce specialist, empowering success through experience-driven ecosystems that fuse technology, data, design, and storytelling to propel business growth.
She has eight years of analytical experience in the digital commerce space, coupled with 15 years of hands-on retail operations knowledge.
Astound Commerce is a global digital agency focused on developing innovative commerce experiences. We combine experience design, technology development, and marketing strategy to help brands engage with their customers at every stage of the buying cycle.