As a retailer, you know that change is the only constant. And it's no secret that the pandemic not only accelerated some consumer trends but ultimately changed the face of retail in a way none of us could have foreseen.
In-store retail was hammered hard by lockdowns and restrictions, requiring customers to shop from their homes. Because of this, online retail saw accelerated, and experienced unprecedented, demand. Consequently, consumer behaviour changed - perhaps permanently. There is no going back to a pre-COVID "normal", which means retail businesses face the critical need to assess what has changed and evolve their ways of doing business.
The businesses that will not only survive but thrive in this new retail landscape will be the ones that can react and adapt the quickest, thanks to an understanding of the changes in consumer behaviour.
We recently surveyed 850 retail consumers across the US, UK and Australian markets to pinpoint how they are shopping, where they are shopping and what retailers can do to meet their needs. The research has uncovered key global trends you need to know about which are set to shape retail into the future.
Key global retail consumer trends
More than half of shoppers would let their local shop close down to avoid getting COVID-19
Respondents were more concerned with protecting the health of themselves and their loved ones than supporting local businesses that rely on their business.
Nearly 80% of consumers would feel better about visiting bars and restaurants if there was good ventilation.
Overwhelmingly a deciding factor for consumers was that businesses need to have proper ventilation in place to feel comfortable visiting them again whilst the threat of catching COVID was still high.
83% of respondents are more likely to avoid going into smaller shops to adhere to social distancing.
Shoppers would rather make purchases online whilst social distancing rules and density limits were still being enforced. They also didn’t feel comfortable visiting small spaces as it was seen to increase the likelihood of catching COVID.
67% of shoppers still spend more than half of their budget in-store.
When we asked our shoppers where they were spending their money, most of them told us they were spending most of it in-store. Not only this, but 58% of consumers said they spend more in-store during single transactions than they do online.
58% of consumers say they're confident to visit retail stores.
Shoppers are confident shopping in-store post COVID-19 restrictions - but expectations have evolved, and retailers may need to make some shifts to accommodate.
For example, 66% of shoppers want a more efficient in-store experience. They say they'd like to experience digital features in-store to make the experience more frictionless: for example, digital signage, contactless payments, self-serve checkouts, click and collect.
54% of shoppers said they are keen to shop in-store as much, if not more, as they did pre-COVID.
While the pandemic has accelerated the growth of online shopping, a substantial portion of people want to get away from their screens and enjoy the in-store experience.
100% of consumers say that sustainability, diversity & inclusivity are a factor in their decision-making.
All the consumers we spoke to said that a sustainable, diverse and inclusive position drives their choice of retailer. Breaking it down further, 31% of consumers say the sustainability practices of a brand impact their choice 'a lot', and this statistic rose to 33% when we asked about diversity and inclusion.
Key findings by region
75% of Australian shoppers say that a store that advertises its commitment to social distancing and safety is one they'd more likely visit.
Not only are Aussie shoppers looking for a displayed commitment to pandemic related safety, but signage is also crucial for attracting new customers. 58% of Australian shoppers are likely to go into a store they've never visited if they see something attractive in the window like a digital sign.
Digital signage is also one of the ways consumers are expecting stores to provide a more enjoyable and frictionless experience: 69% of Australian shoppers say they'd like to experience digital features in-store, including digital signage, contactless payments, self-serve checkouts, and click and collect.
66% of Australian consumers say customer service is key to their in-store experience.
As the role of the brick and mortar store evolves post-pandemic, the need for professional, empathetic and caring customer service hasn't changed. Great customer service is the backbone of a great customer experience in-store - and Australians know it and expect it.
64% of UK consumers spend more than 50% of their budget in-store.
UK shoppers told us that most of their disposable income is being spent in-store - plus 56% also noted they typically spend more money in-store than online during a single shopping transaction.
But these consumers are looking for a different shopping experience post-COVID-19, with 69% of UK shoppers wanting a safer, easier, more efficient in-store experience thanks to digital signage, contactless payments, self-serve checkouts, and click and collect.
54% of US customers said they'd be more likely to shop in their local specialty store than in the larger chain superstores.
54% of US consumers say they're confident to visit their local retail stores, and they're more likely to spend their money locally than at larger chain superstores.
Why are Americans turning to local retail? For most, it's about supporting the local economy and community, followed by a preference for the shopping experience provided by smaller, local stores.
Why do you prefer to shop in local specialty stores?
- Because I like to support local businesses and communities 61%
- Because I prefer the shopping experience in smaller, local stores 24%
- Because the smaller specialty stores have a better product 12%
- Because larger retailers don't feel as safe as my smaller local stores 3%
Key category spotlight
68% of shoppers say they'd prefer to buy apparel in-store than online.
Globally, most apparel customers are looking for in-store buying experiences, while in Australia, the statistic jumps to an even larger 75%.
The tactile experience of trying things on is the number one reason consumers choose in-store over online, followed by the enjoyment of the whole in-store shopping experience.
Why do you prefer to shop for apparel in-store?
- Because I prefer to try things on and feel fabrics 55%
- Because I like to get something immediately, not wait for delivery 10%
- I don't like paying delivery fees 7%
- I enjoy the whole in-store shopping experience 28%
But don't discount online! An omnichannel approach might be the perfect fit, as 68% of consumers prefer to research online even if they purchase in-store.
74% of shoppers say they prefer to buy groceries in-store.
Across the board, consumers prefer to buy their groceries in-store in the US, UK and Australia. Mostly they choose the in-store experience so they can pick and choose first hand, but many consumers are impatient and don't like to wait for delivery!
Why do you prefer to shop for groceries in-store?
- Because I prefer to see and choose the groceries I am buying first-hand 75%
- Because I like to get something immediately, not wait for delivery 13%
- I don't like paying delivery fees 7%
- I enjoy the whole in-store shopping experience 5%
58% of shoppers say they'd prefer to buy electronics online.
While most consumers like to buy their electronics online, for the 42% of shoppers who do prefer to buy in-store, there are various reasons for this choice to keep in mind.
Why do you prefer to shop for electronics in-store?
- Because I prefer to see and interact with the products before I buy them 68%
- Because I like to get something immediately, not wait for delivery 15%
- I don't like paying delivery fees 11%
- I enjoy the whole in-store shopping experience 6%
Buying for others
41% of consumers say they prefer shopping for others in-store than online.
While globally, most consumers like to go gift shopping online, we see a different story told Down Under when we look at the data by country.
Australia: In-store - 53% Online - 47%
UK: In-store - 34% Online - 66%
US: In-store - 35% Online - 65%
Your key takeaways
Up the ante on your in-store experience
While shoppers are confident returning to in-store shopping (and are putting their money where their mouth is!), they have new expectations. Consider how you can make them aware your brick and mortar store is COVID-safe. Prioritise customer service, recognising that in-store customers aren't just shopping for a product but an experience. Make the experience as frictionless as possible by using digital signage, contactless payment gateways and offering click and collect services.
From groceries to apparel, it's clear from the research that customers visit brick and mortar stores to get something they can't when shopping online - now is the time for you to start delivering to that demand.
Prioritise your commitment to sustainability and diversity & inclusion
Consumers are looking for brands to step up when it comes to social issues like diversity and inclusion and show up for the environment. Your dedication needs to be more than lip service, consumers are looking for a demonstrable level of commitment, and this, in turn, drives their decision to choose your store.
Return to local
Perhaps it was all the time spent at home during lockdowns, but today's consumer is keen to stay local when it comes to their retail choice. Capitalise on this demand by ensuring potential customers are aware of your local credentials. From creating jobs in your town to supporting community causes to supporting local artisans - let them know why shopping small is so grand.
As you move from the reactive phase of responding to the pandemic to a more strategic planning stage, it's time to reshape the future of retail.
Written by Lachlan Ross
Marketing Manager at Mandoe