New research by Wunderman Thompson Commerce reveals that fewer than two in ten (16%) of UK consumers intend to return to their old shopping habits post-lockdown, signifying the lasting change that COVID-19 will have on the retail industry.
The COVID, Commerce and the Consumer research – which surveyed 2,000 UK consumers on their shopping experience during the COVID-19 pandemic – found that the need for safety during lockdown has resulted in a huge shift in shoppers’ habits and traits with a particular trend towards online channels.
Online purchasing accounted for 62% of all shopping during lockdown, compared to 43% before the pandemic. Although online shopping is predicted to account for over half (51%) of all spend moving forward, it will remain higher than it was before the pandemic. Fear of contracting the virus will also play its part in driving online spend with 48% of shoppers scared about shopping in-store.
Shopping habits may have had to change during lockdown, but familiar factors have emerged: 61% of shoppers identified free delivery as a key purchase driver, with availability (57%) and price (53%) coming in as close second and third choices. Yet, when asked what consumers would like to see change most in their online shopping experience, free returns (28%) topped the list.
Amazon’s share in the eCommerce market swelled with over a third (35%) of all online shopping conducted through the marketplace during the lockdown period, reinforcing the company as a big retail winner in the wake of the pandemic. One-in-five (20%) said their net intention to purchase with Amazon post-COVID-19 will increase, despite 21% of people expressing worry about Amazon’s ever-increasing dominance.
Not the sole retail winner, Tesco led the battle of the supermarkets and saw a significant 23% improvement in net perception; while the net intention to purchase post-COVID-19 rose by 9%. Competitors Sainsbury’s and Morrisons both saw a 12% net rise in positive perception respectively.
Other winners include corner shops with a quarter (27%) net increase in positive public perception as they played a pivotal role in providing essential goods. In comparison, the Government’s net change in perception decreased by 30% while the NHS is up during the COVID-19 outbreak by a significant 62%.
Hugh Fletcher, global head of consultancy and innovation at Wunderman Thompson Commerce, said:“COVID-19 was always going to have a big impact on retail, particularly on high-street brands; in many cases, retailers have had to shift entire operations online. With many consumers looking for assurances on safety and reliability, it’s perhaps unsurprising to see the likes of Amazon and the ‘big four’ supermarkets resonate highly with their ability to provide services to consumers in the way they want. They also all adapted quickly by emphasising stock availability, competitive pricing and customer safety. But corner shops played a vital role too. As consumers look to keep their purse strings relatively tight and as a more digital-first retail future materialises, the brands and retailers that are able to pivot their business models to accommodate this rise in online spend will ultimately get a greater share of shoppers’ wallet.”
On consumers’ desire for digital, one in five (21%) would like more of their products to be digital and instantly downloadable, a noticeable influence of lockdown measures as shoppers have been forced to purchase various goods without leaving home.
The impact of COVID-19 may also be a tipping point for ethical concerns with nearly three-quarters (73%) wishing that retailers and brands would offer better environmental practices. Over half (55%) of consumers say that a company’s ethics and morals play an important part in their purchase decisions, another element that retailers need to contend with as the ‘new normal’ becomes a reality.