Understanding Pandemic-Induced Shopping Habits is Key to Driving Post-COVID Sales
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, online shopping was already booming. Now, as vaccines become more widely available, storefront owners have a lot to consider when preparing to welcome customers back over the next few months.
Especially after living under lockdown for over a year and relying on the likes of Amazon.com for everything from apparel to groceries, retailers may find it difficult to convince consumers to get back to in-store shopping. To gain back customers, retailers need to strategize how to attract both long-time and new shoppers and ensure they're comfortable in-store.
Data is key to unlocking the expectations of different consumer segments and answering critical questions such as:
- Which consumers are likely to continue shopping primarily online?
- What is motivating consumers' shopping habits? Health, convenience, price?
- What are the expectations shoppers have for in-person experiences?
My company, AnalyticsIQ, leverages proprietary cognitive research to gain these exact types of insights. Our latest research delivers the following key insights for retailers.
Spur Spontaneous Shopping
Although some shoppers have been tightly watching their wallets through the pandemic, AnalyticsIQ’s latest research shows that one in four consumers is still likely to make impulsive financial decisions. And while these spontaneous shoppers are less affluent than the average population, they're 57 percent more likely to purchase items from Amazon and 79 percent more likely to use deal sites like Groupon or RetailMeNot. They're also more likely to rely on convenience-based services, like online grocery delivery, to make their life easier.
If retailers want to capture the unplanned dollars that shoppers are willing and ready to spend, they should consider tactics that align with their lifestyle, such as:
- offer special in-store only discounts;
- ensure that in-store incentives are still highly marketed across key deal websites;
- reward customers with extra loyalty points for actions like downloading your app;
- provide time-sensitive in-store offers that surprise and delight this impulsive audience; and
- lean into marketing messages that focus on speed and ease of shopping.
Digital Isn’t a Trend, It’s Table Stakes
Taking a closer look at shopping habits, AnalyticsIQ’s research shows that nearly a quarter of all consumers are likely to make an online purchase at least once a week. Not terribly surprising. But what else can we learn about digital shoppers?
Many of the digital-first shoppers are middle-aged and likely to have at least one young child. They're highly educated; 1.4X more likely to have a Bachelor’s degree, and 1.7X more likely to have a graduate degree than the average person. Their income is 64 percent above average, and they love their social media, from Instagram to Twitter to Snapchat. With a digital-first mentality, it’s no surprise they're also 50-plus percent more likely to have their next meal or grocery order delivered. And the best music to retailers’ ears? They’re big spenders. Each year, they dole out 46 percent more than average on discretionary items, 45 percent more on apparel, and 77 percent more on entertainment.
To attract the digital-first type of shopper to shift their spend to local locations, consider the following tactics:
- Offer flexible, convenient options when shoppers click on their carts, such as buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), buy online, return in-store (BORIS), or curbside pickup.
- Emphasize products and deals that align with the categories they especially like to spend on, like kid’s items, clothing and entertainment.
- Consider an influencer strategy to penetrate social media, a favorite hangout for this audience type.
The Post-Pandemic Shopper
Let’s talk about the shoppers who aren’t just looking for deals or digital-style convenience. They want a safe, mindful shopping experience. According to AnalyticsIQ research, 30 percent of shoppers are what we consider “On-Guard Cynics”. They’re on-guard as in they take safety precautions, like limiting in-person interactions. They’re hesitant about the future and fear that others may return to “normal” too quickly.
To ensure this key segment of potential shoppers is heard, retailers should be ready to invest in safe experiences that maintain social distancing protocols as well as cleanliness. That means implementing technologies that offer touchless interactions, proper mask-wearing and sanitizing policies for staff and shoppers, consistent cleaning of fitting rooms, and setting up partitions at checkout and customer service counters.
This last year has been a tough one for retailers and customers alike. While merchants want to get back to business as usual as vaccines roll out, it’s important to keep customer needs, wants and concerns top of mind rather than rush into reopening. Tuning into what’s really motivating customers’ pandemic-induced behaviors will make for a more compelling experience that will rebuild brand loyalty and trust.
Dave Kelly is the CEO of AnalyticsIQ, a data company that blends cognitive psychology with sophisticated data science to deliver the most comprehensive, accurate marketing data available.