For retail professionals, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented rise in online orders. This has lead them to have to tackle many unprecedented and irregular peaks. On the consumer side, how have these changes been experienced? What conclusions can we draw? How can this be applied to the final months of the decade?
National representative survey confirms e-Commerce Boom
To delve into the consumer mindset, Scurri partnered with YouGov to survey over 2,000 UK adults. The nationally representative survey revealed that the eCommerce boom looks set to maintain its course throughout this second lockdown in the UK. The study looked at attitudes towards online vs offline shopping during and post lockdown, as well as the volumes of online deliveries over the same period. It also looked at consumer concerns around in-store shopping and attitudes towards British brands in the context of economic recovery.
One third of Brits shops more online than before first lockdown
Global revenue from online sales in the second quarter of 2020 skyrocketed 71% year-over-year, according to data from Salesforce’s Shopping Index. The first major finding from Scurri’s survey was that rather than stabilizing or declining post first lockdown, this momentum has continued. As many as a third of the UK population (33%) say they are actually shopping more online now than they did during their first lockdown, while 38% are shopping online as much as they did during their first lockdown. Regionally, these figures were highest in Wales where 39% are shopping more than during their first lockdown, compared to 27% in Northern Ireland, 32% in England and 36% in Scotland.
How many parcels do you get per week?
During the first lockdown, an incredible 71% of British consumers received between 1-3 online shopping orders delivered to their homes every week, while 12% had as many as 4-6 parcels delivered every week. 5% of UK online shoppers had as many as 7-15 packages delivered on a weekly basis during the lockdown period. Since the lifting of the first lockdown, there has been only a negligible decline in the number of packages UK online shoppers have delivered to their homes every week. 66% (-5%) claim they are still receiving 1-3 online shopping orders delivered on a weekly basis, while 9% (-3%) say they still receive between 4-6 packages to their homes.
“The survey for us painted a clear picture of a cautious consumer who feels more comfortable shopping from the comforts of their own homes. We are very interested in seeing if this second lockdown has changed any consumer shopping habits,” says Rory O’Connor, Founder & CEO, Scurri.
E-Commerce a necessity?
With consumers in the 50+ bracket being identified as particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, many of these consumers have adopted e-commerce due to necessity. Interestingly, the survey reflected this with 19% of those aged 55+ saying they are shopping much more online since lockdown compared to 11% of 18-24 year olds. In real world terms, this proves out the natural wariness among this age group to shop in-store due to virus concerns. Scurri believes that this is a whole age category which to date many have not catered to and therefore represents a new opportunity for those brands that are sensitive to their needs and who can provide a relevant experience.
Of course, it is not just older generations who have changed their online habits. The majority of consumers of all ages have done so, whether it’s in terms of frequency of online shopping, new channels or new delivery methods. Scurri believes that the longer the crisis endures, the more likely it is that those habits will last in a permanent sense.
The beginning of Seasonal Shopping
What brands need to be asking themselves right now as we have entered the Christmas period is: are my products visible when consumers are looking for them online and most importantly – am I engaging with them in a meaningful way? While it is true that Amazon sellers are the big winners this year, Scurri believes that other retailers still have the opportunity to capture Q4 sales by focussing strongly on the customer experience, even now in the middle of seasonal shopping period.
Already more consumers than ever are flocking online to prepare for the festive season. A recent survey by American Express showed recently that a third of British consumers had already begun to make their seasonal purchases online as early as September.
As we have approached the seasonal shopping peak, retailers should not underestimate the level of safety and solace that consumers continue to derive from online shopping, especially those who are more vulnerable to virus concerns. According to the study, as many as a third of the UK population (33%) say they still feel unsafe shopping in-store due to the virus.
Support the locals
With Black Friday end of this month, local brands in particular have to fight especially hard to capture some of the market this quarter.
Scurri’s survey found however that British brands could fare quite well this Christmas period, with consumer support looking strong. As a result of the economic consequences of the pandemic 59% of UK shoppers say that they intend to consciously seek out British brands to support the UK economy. This sentiment is currently highest among female consumers (63%) versus men (54%). Regionally, this sentiment was highest in Northern Ireland where 64% agreed with this statement. The biggest difference was in terms of age. Those that agreed least with this were in the 18-24 bracket (45%). The figure was 70% for those 55+.
So which retailers will fare best?
Scurri believes that the earlier retailers engage with customers the better. So they can ensure they are part of their festive experience this year. For retailers that have the resources, taking a leaf out of John Lewis’ book would be a good strategy to consider. The creation of a well designed online Christmas store provides the perfect platform to channel customers towards promotions and deals.
Retailers will also need to strike the right balance between online and offline. They need to ensure enough stock on both channels and investing in creating a festive experience. They will also need to prepare to offer Click and Collect and alternatives like reservation shopping. Shopping hours for vulnerable people or concierge services should be offered where consumers can drop off their shopping list. The latter is proving very popular among some US chains. According to Scurri’s study these methods are also popular in the UK. With 37% saying that as a result of pandemic restrictions, they have tried contactless delivery, Click & Collect (26%), virtual queuing (14%) or reservation shopping (12%).
No need to panic buying!
Of course, supply issues are also of particular concern at present. In a normal year, these kinds of issues usually only arise in the context of Boxing Day or January sales when consumers flock to stores to get the best deals.
Many independent retailers have experienced difficulty sourcing stock for this Christmas from major international brands whose production was hit earlier in the year by Covid-related factory closures in Asia and Europe.
Some large fashion brands also cancelled huge production orders at their factories when economic uncertainty from the virus outbreak was at its height. As sales have picked up, this has forced some to begin rationing supply for their own networks and limiting supply to independent stores. Toy brands have also been particularly hit this season by supply issues. Major brands such as Hasbro publicly communicated shortages of supplies.
Building an online experience essential for this Christmas
To survive this quarter, businesses will need to build compelling shopping experiences for their customers. To achieve this, it is imperative that they find the balance to connect online and in-store experiences. Also, they have to have adequate stock to meet demands. Last but not least, they have to use all means necessary to provide as festive an experience as they can.