The global eCommerce market has been growing rapidly over the last several years. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated that growth significantly, with the average U.S. retailer notching 68 percent growth in online revenue year-over-year on the heels of 129 percent year-over-year growth in the volume of eCommerce orders. With mandated social distancing, stay-at-home policies, and limited access to physical stores, it’s only natural that shoppers adapted their habits to acquire the things they need.
Now, as states begin to reopen across the country, multichannel brands need to take note of these new behaviors because, according to statistics, they are here to stay. Here are four shopping habits that society has broken during the pandemic—and what each of them means for you.
Broken habit #1: The need to buy in-store
The pandemic forced some of even the most stubborn consumers who rejected buying things online to adapt to the new normal and embrace the convenience of buying things from their couches. More and more consumers are understanding the value of online shopping, thanks to online retailers like Instacart, Drizly, and Amazon.
What does this mean for multichannel brands? You’ll need to focus on creating a streamlined digital consumer shopping experience, and you’ll need to shift resources to support eCommerce as the top priority that it is. Protect your market share by connecting consumer needs with product solutions, keeping them engaged, and tailoring your eCommerce strategy for a positive customer experience. For some brands, particularly those in the food and beverage and alcohol industries, this new strategy will also need to adapt in-store buying habits to their online strategy as well.
Broken habit #2: Purchasing decisions based on brand name
When you are in the midst of a global pandemic, your priorities change. The same holds true for shopping behaviors. Take a look at what consumers wanted from an eCommerce experience prior to COVID-19 compared to what they want now:
Before the pandemic:
- 48 percent of consumers were influenced by quality.
- 47 percent of consumers were influenced by price.
- 24 percent of consumers were influenced by the brand.
- 49 percent of consumers are influenced by product availability.
- 36 percent of consumers are influenced by price.
- 34 percent of consumers are influenced by quality.
In other words, people care more about availability than they do about price and quality—which, not too long ago, were the driving factors of purchasing decisions. This shift in priorities makes sense given the surge in demand and resulting shortages we’ve all recently experienced for common items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
Also worth noting is how a brand’s influence has dropped due to increased receptivity to substitutes. Just think about the last time you bought groceries—did you even care about what brand of flour you needed to make your quarantine banana bread? Chances are you bought what was in stock, and you were thrilled that you were able to.
Now that states are beginning to reopen, multichannel brands must be aware of the fact that they could very well lose business to a competitor if theirs isn’t in stock. To win in a post-pandemic world, it’s critical to optimize inventory management, highlight product benefits, and build a convenient digital shopping experience. Even if you’re competing against a brand-name juggernaut, you might be able to win on availability alone.
Broken habit #3: Just-in-time buying habits
These days, the unpredictable climate is causing many shoppers to stock up “just in case.” We have all experienced this behavior in some way, like when the news says a blizzard is coming and stores run out of bread, milk, and eggs immediately. But because COVID-19 is a global phenomenon, these shortages have become much more widespread. Months ago when COVID-19 reached our shores, there was a surge in demand for grocery items, household necessities, and even alcohol. From items like paper towels and bandaids to canned vegetables and hand soap, people are stocking up on more items than ever before.
Brands that weren’t prepared for a surge of this magnitude have found themselves dealing with strained supply chains, empty shelves, and out-of-stock items. Even if your brand didn’t experience this problem to the magnitude described above, the reality is that it still could. Even now as states begin to reopen, consumers will likely continue to stock-up in preparation of the “what if” that still lingers around COVID. At the very least, you need to start aligning your supply chain today so you can be prepared for future demand fluctuations.
Broken habit #4: Hesitation to buy via social commerce
Social commerce has already been on the rise in recent years. But with people spending more time online in general—and on social media, in particular—it appears as though social commerce has finally entered prime time. Though shoppers might have been hesitant to buy things on social networks not too long ago, the pandemic has changed that habit completely.
For example, Instagram is the world's largest mall. If you think about social platforms five years ago, they mostly provided entertainment and information. Fast-forward to today, and social has transformed into a true commerce channel. Whether consumers know it or not, they are essentially scrolling through their feed to window shop and get a feel for what products look like when they’re used in the real world. And this offers an experience that you can’t find anywhere else.
Multichannel brands need to take full advantage of this valuable traffic via large social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. A good example is Levi’s participating in TikTok’s “Shop Now” program, which gives consumers the option to purchase items directly through TikTok videos. The brand launched customized denim with popular TikTok creators wearing them in their videos, and consumers are able to click through the video to purchase on Levi’s website.
Multichannel brands need to be prepared
As the country slowly begins to reopen, multichannel brands need to be prepared in order to win. As a response to COVID-19, consumers are shopping more online at increasing rates, changing their spending habits and preferences, stocking up on essentials, and making real-time purchase decisions on social media.
Add it all up, and it is crucial for brands to lean in on data and keep tabs on these shifts. By doing so, they are able to capitalize on shifting customer sentiments in real time, drive more sales, increase customer loyalty, and bolster their bottom lines along the way.