Consumer preferences and behavior are always changing. But the global pandemic has ushered in an era of change in how people think and shop like none other. Some of the shifts in consumer behavior already in place were accelerated over the past 2+ years, while other changes emerged and accelerated during the time of COVID. Here are some of the more momentous changes:
There’s no doubt that e-commerce was growing fast before the COVID-19 outbreak. But that growth accelerated during a global pandemic where social distancing became a key way to avoid infection. In 2021, e-commerce accounted for nearly 20% of retail sales worldwide, up from only about 7% in 2015, according to Statista. Within just a couple more years, e-commerce is expected to represent one-quarter or more of all global retail sales.
Safety concerns may have helped propel e-commerce to even greater heights, but the convenience and affordability of having goods delivered has supported continued (and explosive) growth. If your brand doesn’t have a stellar online experience, now’s the time to invest in one that’s high-quality and mobile-friendly. According to Statista, nearly one-third of all U.S. retail sales are made with a smartphone or tablet. Within some demographic groups, the percentage is much higher.
This is an example of another trend that gained even more traction during the pandemic. Nearly three-quarters of global consumers in 20 countries said sustainability was more important to them because of COVID-19, according to research firm GWI’s 2021 Consumer Trends study. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed, for example, said they were willing to change their shopping habits to gain sustainable and environmentally responsible products and packaging.
You may not be able to change the manufacturing process of the products you sell, but you can change the way they are packaged and arrive on consumer doorsteps. More than 82 percent of those surveyed, for example, said they are concerned about shipping materials and prefer cardboard (and recyclable) boxes and packaging over any type of plastic materials. It’s interesting to note that sustainability is a concern in all age and income groups and across all customer demographics. Shift toward a more sustainable experience for your customers and let them know what you’re doing, both in the sales and fulfillment processes.
Consumers used to research products they wanted to buy online and buy in brick-and-mortar stores. Now shoppers will look at products in-store and then order them online, from their laptop, smartphone or tablet. And oftentimes, they’ll visit a deal site, review site or influencer before they make their final selection and purchase. That’s why it’s so important to tap into these high-converting sources of online traffic.
Even more intriguing, shoppers are more comfortable than ever before making larger purchases online—both in terms of product cost and shopping cart size, according to data analysis firm PYMNTS. Having a plan in place to capture more sales during this critical (and expanded) shopping window is more important than ever before.
It used to be that shoppers made their holiday purchases in November and December. Today, the holiday shopping season starts in late summer/early fall and runs through December 25 and beyond into January. Demand for seasonal offerings, such as the ubiquitous products featuring pumpkin spice, has been picking up toward the tail end of summer. Every e-commerce company needs to have a specific, measurable, and adaptable online campaign designed to capitalize on this critical shopping period that now starts earlier than ever before. Specific days used to be so important to retailers — like Black Friday or Cyber Monday for instance — but now sales are being spread out over a longer period. Another shift: Consumers are increasingly using the last quarter of each year to treat themselves in small and large ways in addition to purchasing gifts for friends and family.
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