Consumers who turned to ecommerce websites when the pandemic hit are likely to visit them for holiday shopping, Criteo found in its “Peak to Recovery” survey of over 1,300 US consumers in May.
The ad tech company found that during the initial COVID outbreak, 39% of consumers bought from online stores for the first time, 33% discovered merchants they never heard of before, and almost 85% planned to continue purchasing from the new stores they discovered.
David Fox, Chief Commercial Officer of Criteo, told EcommerceBytes that in June, online retail sales were 30% higher in the U.S. compared to pre-pandemic averages. Consumers became more familiar and accustomed to the convenience of their go-to ecommerce websites, resulting in new moments of discovery for consumers, he said, such as being exposed to new ways of shopping – social commerce, for example, or discovering news brands that fit their needs.
As some consumers turned their homes into makeshift gyms and offices or stocked-up on products for new hobbies, such as gardening or arts and crafts, ecommerce proved to be a convenient and safe way to help them adjust to the new way of living.
“Consumers have grown accustomed to the convenience ecommerce provides,” Fox said. “Now more than ever, consumers are open to change.”
New realities also mean a much earlier holiday shopping season, with retailers rolling out deals sooner than years prior to replace deal-hunting when in-store, he said. “Shopper loyalty will also be a major aspect for retailers and brands to keep a close eye on this holiday season as many consumers have discovered new brands and retailers during the quarantine.”
Square also sees consumer behavior changing. The payments firm said buyers will continue to expect more options in how they shop – “Even as cities reopen, consumer sentiment and behavior will vary, with many still preferring curbside pickup and delivery.”
Typically people are resistant to change, but lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders, and quarantines positioned online platforms as the most convenient and safest way to purchase products and essentials, said Chris Dessi, Vice President of Americas and Australia at Productsup, which helps merchants manage their product feeds across platforms and channels.
Consumers are becoming more familiar with using online ordering and curbside pickup, or even home delivery. “The forced reliance on ecommerce is pushing consumers to embrace change, which will have long-lasting effects,” Dessi said. “As businesses pour efforts into enhancing their online presence and customer experience, consumers will be even more pleased with the offerings, and ecommerce will continue to boom.”
Research firm Accenture also predicted in August that the recent surge in digital and omnichannel adoption, particularly among new or infrequent users, would continue. Consumers are also striving to shop locally, mindfully and cost-consciously, it said.
“Fifty-six percent of consumers are shopping in neighborhood stores or buying more locally sourced products, with 79% and 84% respectively planning to continue with this behavior into the longer term,” according to the report on Accenture.com. “Reasons for this vary from actively supporting local stores or national products, or as quest for authentic and artisan products.”
Square noted that retailers have also adapted to the pandemic challenge. “Small businesses have pivoted business models, built online operations, and have even started selling completely new products to stay ahead,” the company said.
And even though Criteo’s survey found that respondents planned to keep purchasing from new online stores they discovered during the early days of the pandemic, Fox said marketers will need to remain connected with consumers throughout their entire shopping journey or risk being forgotten about when competitors begin running their own holiday promotions.
“Overall, brands need to understand who their new customers are stemming from the pandemic as shopper behavior will look entirely different this year versus last – and adjust their holiday shopping strategy to reflect these changes,” he said.