Unified commerce pays as multi-channel retailers sweep up home-bound shoppers, finds Adyen

New data released today by Adyen, the global payments platform of choice for many of the world’s leading companies, underscores the importance of omni-channel retail in mitigating sector and wider economic turbulence caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Anonymised transaction data across Adyen’s global payments platform found that half of retailers adopting a unified commerce or omnichannel approach saw their total number of transactions remain consistent during the pandemic – meaning that the reduction in sales volumes from stores was offset by online channels.

Adyen’s data also found that shoppers who only ever purchased from a retailer in-store prior to the pandemic spent, on average, 40% more when they shifted online to make purchases during the pandemic.

The importance of unified commerce to the UK retail sector’s performance is further demonstrated in economic analysis commissioned by Adyen and conducted by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR).

CEBR’s research found that the proportion of retailers selling online via their own website or app averaged just 27% across Europe – but that increasing this proportion even slightly could have a significant positive economic impact. 

CEBR used the United Nations’ UNCTAD index to assess European countries’ unified commerce readiness. When controlling for the stringency of country lockdowns, it found that a five point increase on the UNCTAD index was associated with 2.6% better retail sector performance during the pandemic. This equates to a £22.2 billion improvement in the UK’s turnover[2].

However, while online channels were a lifeline to retailers during the pandemic, physical stores are far from dead. Consumer research conducted by Opinium as part of Adyen’s study shows that half of Brits still prefer shopping in physical stores, and just under half (48%) are looking forward to shopping in stores for pleasure following the pandemic.

CJ Weerasinghe, head of finance and IT at MUJI Europe, comments: “When the lockdown started, MUJI closed its online stores temporarily to ensure warehouse workers’ safety. Once they reopened, sales surged to Christmas volumes. We’re now delighted to welcome shoppers back into our stores and have implemented measures to ensure they feel safe. But we recognise that many customers will still prefer to shop online. So our focus now is to ensure that the MUJI experience is available to our customers, wherever they are.“

Roelant Prins, chief commercial officer at Adyen, comments: “Consumers today don’t want to be boxed; they want to shop in a way that works for them – and this might change depending on where they are, how they feel or many other factors. Those retailers prepared to cater to today’s consumers were the ones that won out through the first wave of the pandemic. They were the ones agile enough to cope with the constantly changing environment, and with the infrastructure in place to continue meeting consumer demands throughout this period. 

“While something as seismic as the coronavirus may only occur once in a lifetime, the retail sector has been consistently shaken by digitalisation and changing consumer habits. If it’s to survive further shifts, which will inevitably come, retailers need to make sure they’re ready – and adopting a holistic, omni-channel approach will be key to this.”