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COVID 19: The Shift In eCommerce Shopping Behaviours

Andy Thorne
COVID 19: The Shift In eCommerce Shopping Behaviours

Lockdown left people reliant on buying online and created countless new converts to the convenience of eCommerce. However, it’s not all good news for online retailers, as our summary of changes to UK eCommerce trends show.

COVID-19 didn’t just alter the entire course of 2020. It created a long-lasting ripple effect, impacting on international and national economic stability, health management and governance. It has also altered everyday decision making by the British public.

The upsurge in buying online and eCommerce trends

The upsurge in buying online

Although the surge in online purchasing increased during may, how many months will this stay at a height?

One of the most noticeable immediate effects of the pandemic was a shift in eCommerce trends when it comes to online purchasing. Though in some cases the sudden reliance on online retail simply accelerated buying trends that were already underway.

In 2019, consumers in the UK spent over £106 billion online, a 10.9% growth on the previous year. The figures for 2020 will make interesting reading.

It’s likely as lockdown continues to ease buying online will have become a more ingrained habit, for more people. Especially if they’re wary of busy places and confined spaces, making busy shopping centres and high streets less appealing.

When non-essential businesses were forced to close during the pandemic, consumers began to look around for alternative sources for goods they traditional bought from speciality shops. This too drove more traffic to online retailers offering the same or similar goods.

One of the biggest shift in eCommerce trends we have seen over the course of lockdown is the widespread migration to working from home is key. That gives consumers more time to browse websites looking for purchases, cutting them off from their previous lunch and post-work shopping forays.

Fulfilment and doorstep delivery

Fulfilment and doorstep delivery

Delivery companies booming more than ever with not enough hours in the day to deliver the sheer amount of online parcels being shipped, leading to a delay in all postal orders.

Click and collect was an increasing retail eCommerce trend in 2019, growing by more than 8%. For several months this was not practical or appealing, which could mean an even greater reliance on home delivery.

Some companies struggled to keep pace with the rush to buy online, and delivery and stock issues were prolific.

In a 2019 study, 35% of consumers (41% if they were Millennials) quickly became exasperated by websites with poor page load speed; so delivery delays were a massive turnoff!

Did the COVID-19 crisis make people more patient? There’s a view that regularly dealing with out of stock items and fighting for delivery slots has increased empathy with fulfilment issues. If their expectations are properly managed of course.

Changes to what we buy

Changes to what we buy

COVID-19 has brought a new shift in our purchasing habits, we are now more than ever cautious about what we buy and where this product comes from.

Setting aside the whole toilet paper debacle and unsavoury price increases for antiseptic hand gel, COVID-19 has impacted on in-demand products, pushing eCommerce trends to the site there is reason to believe, the initial panic buying has mutated into always keeping stocks of basic groceries handy ‘just in case’.

Months with no access to eating out also increased the amount of food and beverages the national buys online.

The demographic imbalance

The demographic imbalance

With all generations being affected by COVID-19, we saw a big divide in who was spending and who wasn’t.

On the one hand, there’s a view that older shoppers were nervous about taking delivery of goods which could carry the virus! However, shielding and quarantining over-65s were often forced to turn to eCommerce sites for household essentials.

Here comes one of the biggest shifts in eCommerce trends over the last few months. One thing that is clear, Millennials – Generation Z – are displaying uncertainty about their future in their pared down spending habits. Whereas pre-COVID-19 they were highly susceptible to shopping ‘experiences’ and must-have trends, they appear now to be more focused on buying only what they need, as cheaply as possible.

Pundits believe that Generation X (Boomers) are less ‘traumatised’ and concerned about Coronavirus. Which dovetails with a natural tendency for the young to live in the moment. Therefore, they appear less cautious in their purchases, but still more focused on price.

Less or more money spent?

Ecommerce response time

It’s time for eCommerce to step up and improve their platforms ensuring they are providing customers the best experience

So lets look at the statistics linked to the shift in eCommerce trends, The Government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports that over a fifth of usual household spending was shelved during the lockdown, which is a massive drop in money going into the retail sector in general. Though clearly some of this was the halt on holiday booking and eating out.

Fear about the economic repercussions of the pandemic – including massive job losses in the UK – will necessitate what analysts call a ‘reduced shopping intent’. For many, only groceries appear on clicks or bricks shopping lists.

With predictions of a second spike of the virus, consumers are ready to draw back further on spending if needed. Something the Government acknowledged when it considered handing out vouchers for shopping to all adults. Instead, in the mini-budget, it introduced a 50% reduction in meal prices for eating out Monday to Wednesday in August, aiming to support participating restaurants and reignite spending on non-essentials.

How can eCommerce respond?

With such a major shift in the mindset and buying habits of consumers, online retailers must review their business models, and make changes to protect and grow their market share.

Reevaluating your website is vital to addressing changing spending habits and priorities. Especially refreshing brand statements, delivery arrangements and general User Experience methodology.

For some companies – with deep pockets – COVID-19 has been an opportunity to fully embrace retail technology trends. For instance, to promote online purchases, Ikea heavily promoted its augmented reality system enabling shoppers to ‘try’ items in their rooms before purchase.

At the very least, could this be your wake-up call to include a chatbot system in your eCommerce website?

We will look more at the clicks and bricks response to COVID-19 in our second blog on the retail business response to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the big takeaway is this. Consumers have never needed online retailers more. Though they have also never been more careful with their money or more determined to engage with the best eCommerce websites and product offerings.