One of the many conclusions made since 2020 is that ‘retail will never be the same again.’ When it comes to the high street, we expect the long-term impact of the pandemic to be huge.
We decided to research the real impact of COVID-19 on the UK and US retail markets. The results we found were unexpected. In fact, despite the immense challenges we’ve all faced over the last year, shoppers in both countries are still keen to shop in person.
Shoppers still want to browse in person
An almost unbelievable trend we discovered was that shoppers still like to browse. When we asked the main reason people venture out to physical stores, the reasons given were:
- To see an item in person (over a third of respondents)
- To browse (almost a third of respondents)
- As a social experience (one in ten respondents)
Shockingly, despite our preconceptions about how consumers might feel, many enjoy shopping. A third still view it as a ‘social experience,’ although admittedly one with a degree of risk attached to it.
What are the long-term implications of this?
In-store purchasing remains the preference
Perhaps you’ve read in the media that the high street is ‘dead’ – interestingly, our research with real shoppers says the reverse. Over half (56%) of consumers still prefer to shop for groceries in-store. The majority of shoppers preferred to shop for fashion items in-store, and so did those in search of electronics or home appliances. Perhaps, despite the pandemic, consumers still need to see some things in person before they buy.
- Only one in five consumers we spoke to had no preference whether they shopped online or in-store
- For DIY, beauty and sports purchases, more consumers preferred to buy in person than online.
What does this tell us? A majority of shoppers still feel the need to visit a store and see items in person, particularly high-value items or clothing. This bodes well for retail in the long term. However, despite a preference for physical stores, there is a notable change in our appreciation for omnichannel purchasing.
Shoppers now prefer a blend of online and physical shopping
Although the majority of shoppers do prefer to shop for groceries in-store, 38% of these will research in-store and purchase online, and 18% will research online before purchasing in-store.
This trend applies in similar value to other areas of retail, with fashion a quarter of shoppers like to research in-person and buy online, and almost a fifth research online before heading to a store to pick up.
Similarly, in DIY purchases 44% of customers like to go to the store, but of these shoppers, one in five will go on to buy the item online, and a quarter prefers to order online, collect in-store.
This trend marries with the growth we’ve seen in the UK and US of BOPIS models of shopping (Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store, or Click & Collect as it’s called in the UK).
What can retailers do?
As 2021 progresses, what can retailers do to encourage shoppers back into stores? Our respondents were unequivocal:
- 38% wanted to see better deals
- A quarter wanted faster service
- One in five wanted instant access to product and stock information
- One in five wanted better customer service
Understand that consumers want speed
We asked our customers how long they want to spend in store, the results were interesting:
- Two-thirds of customers said they only wanted to stay in stores between 11-20 minutes
- Nearly one in three said they preferred a shopping experience of under ten minutes
Although US shoppers were happier overall to spend longer in store, as were female respondents, the length of shopping times for the majority is notably short. If retailers understand this, we can act accordingly.
Create a blended shopping experience
For some items, we expect shoppers to prefer to continue purchasing in-store in the short-term; groceries, garden, home and DIY, health and beauty and fashion are all items consumers prefer to see first.
Shoppers still want to venture out, but in the long-term we can expect to see some habits change. 24% of our respondents said they expected to buy more online in the next 5 years. With a growing appetite for BOPIS (buy online, pay in-store) and omnichannel shopping, creating a blend of online and in-store shopping is likely to ensure customer loyalty in the future.
At VoCoVo, we’re dedicated to helping our partners meet the demands of retail in 2021. Whether it’s speeding up the shopping experience, delivering better customer service or integrating seamlessly with technology, we’re here to help.