Almost half (46%) of British consumers say they would be willing to pay more to shop at their local high street, rather than online, so that they can enjoy additional amenities, according to new research from Deloitte Digital analysing the impact of the COVID-19 lockdowns on customer experience.
Deloitte Digital’s research, based on responses from 3,100 British consumers between 1st and 19th April 2021, highlights that this comes as online services are falling short. One-third (33%) of consumers say that the online service experience is not good enough, with 27% finding that online services have not met their needs during lockdown.
While 52% say they are now more likely to buy products directly from a company website, 44% say that they are now less tolerant of a poor online service experience as these channels are more important.
Overall, 39% say they are now more likely to spend money at a business that makes it easy for them to shop or interact with them online.
Becky Skiles, partner and chief marketing officer at Deloitte Digital, said: “While I expect that the high street will be a real hot spot for business growth in the coming months, it is also clear that brands must not lose focus on continuing to improve their digital offerings. Alongside the joy of being able to shop in physical stores, consumers will continue to rely on digital options for the ease and choice that they offer. Brands that fail to meet the ever rising expectations of customers as they shop cross-channel risk losing their loyalty. If a consumer has a bad experience with a brand online, they are much more likely to visit a competitor’s site.”
Long-term lift predicted for local services: 64% of consumers willing to pay more for local products
Following the lifting of lockdown restrictions, around two thirds (64%) of consumers say they are willing to pay more for products and services that are produced and sourced locally, compared with 57% who said that they would be more likely to do this in 2020.
Overall, three in five(61%) consumers say they are now more likely to spend money at a business that is independent or local to their area, while 44% are more likely to spend money at a business that has supported local charities, such as food banks.
More than a third (35%) say they started using more local stores and services to support their community during the pandemic.
Libby Cousins, partner and leader of advertising, marketing and commerce at Deloitte Digital, said: “During lockdown, consumers used local stores and services out of necessity but we’re now seeing that they’re drawn to local businesses out of choice. Whether it’s due to the personal service consumers receive in local stores, the quality of local products on offer, or the sense of giving back to the community by using these locations, it’s likely that these businesses will continue to benefit from a long-term increase in consumer loyalty. Local brands can consider more ways to boost local loyalty, for instance by rolling-out subscription services, establishing an online presence or hosting community events.”
Consumers agree employee needs must come first
When asked how companies have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority (68%) of consumers say that ensuring the safety of their workforce should have been the first priority. In contrast, fewer than one in four (23%) say brands should have prioritised the safety of their customers, while 9% say that caring for the local community should have been the main focus.
Overall, 16% of consumers have stopped using or supporting a company over the past 12-months because of the way they have responded to COVID-19. Half (49%) of this group say this is because they did not treat their staff fairly during lockdown, while 39% cite a failure to ensure the safety of their employees or customers.
Almost half (46%) of consumers say that they are now more tolerant of a poor service experience in-stores as they know it’s been a difficult time for these businesses.
Skiles concluded: “As marketers, we need to put employees at the front of our thinking, not just customers. For too long, brands have rolled-out advertising campaigns and initiatives aimed at shining a spotlight on the pride they place on their products and customers, rather than their workforce. It’s clear that consumers today want to spend their money with people rather than faceless brands – marketers must take every opportunity to demonstrate the expertise and efforts of the people who make their businesses great.”