COVID-19 Shopping Trends

Virtual shopping and shopping locally are trends caused by Covid-19 that experts predict are here to stay.

1. Virtual Shopping

  • Virtual shopping entails replicating a real-world brick and mortar store and making it accessible to shoppers in a digital world. The shoppers use avatars to shop as they would in a real store.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic forced most physical stores to either close or limited their operations. Due to this, a shift to digital shopping was accelerated by roughly five years. Therefore, retail stores and brands had to shift their focus on new ways to ensure a successful online shift.
  • One of the things that proved successful for retail stores is virtual shopping.
  • Retail stores had to rely on VR shopping to showcase their inventory online. Additionally, VR proved to be a useful tool for shoppers and helped them know what size of clothes and shoes to buy.
  • Examples of companies that embraced the usefulness of VR shopping include Warby Parkey that provided a virtual try-on feature on its website. Rag&bone also implemented their own virtual styling feature on their website.
  • The use of virtual shopping increased because of its proven success across retail industries.
  • Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, admits that virtual shopping is the future of retail. One of the reasons he believes that is the ultra-realistic retail experience that virtual shopping gives to consumers.
  • Additionally, Technavio research in the VR and AR market predicts that the market will grow at a CAGR of 35% from 2020 to 2024, indicating that any virtual experience, including shopping, is here to stay.

2. Shopping Locally

  • Shopping locally is “the act of everyday consumers, like you, making the decision to buy your produce, clothing and day to day items from a local business instead of going to a large retailer.”
  • One of the reasons that made consumers shop locally is the limited mobility caused by Covid-19 restrictions.
  • Another reason that caused support for local business to increase is the togetherness fostered by the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic inspired communities to join together to enforce social distancing and help the vulnerable people in their groups.
  • The support showed by communities translated to helping local businesses which had been hit hard by the pandemic.
  • Shopify’s research indicated that 79% of people who shopped locally were doing so to support their communities and protect local jobs. 57% of people who bought locally said that they sought out locally owned businesses to support.
  • The survey also showed 34% of people who shopped locally did so more often than they did pre-pandemic.
  • The research looked into the future of shopping locally and provided results indicating that 61% of people who shopped locally will continue to do in the future.
COVID-19 Shopping Trends
  • According to Shopify, buyers have developed an appetite for small, local businesses that offer unique offerings and personalized customer service.
  • Emily Miller, VP of Strategy & Insight at Big Red Rooster, claims that shoppers will continue to shop locally even post Covid-19. According to her, the pandemic made people realize how much they love mom-and-pop shops and will continue to support them.

COVID-19 and Shopper Expectations: North America

The research identifies the major shifts in consumer expectations, regarding in-store shopping services and innovations. Retailers in the North American region have started to implement a series of changes to adapt to changing shopping behavior and provide consumers with a pleasant experience. Convenience, discount, hygiene, efficiency, and digitized experience are the elements consumers look for in brick-and-mortar stores.

1. Buy Online and Pick Up In-Store

  • Consumers have become more aware of store hygiene, which boosts omnichannel purchasing behavior, in other words, buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS) service. Consumers will lean towards stores that offer both e-commerce portals and physical stores.
  • Besides sufficient hygiene facilities in-store, consumers have indicated their willingness to continue the BOPIS (56%) and grocery delivery (45%) ways of purchasing goods after COVID-19. The situation applies to both the US and Canada.

2. Significant Discount Offerings

  • During the promotional shopping period, the first thing consumers expect from in-store shopping is the offer of a good deal (47%), which is followed by health and safety precautions (23%). This likely results from the increased financial concerns of consumers during the time of COVID-19.
  • The above-mentioned data is based on the survey conducted between October 29, 2020, and November 2, 2020, regarding the expectation of the US consumers on Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping.
  • In comparison to other public venues and workplaces, shopping malls or retail stores are perceived to be the safest place by 61% of the US adult consumers. Despite the expectation of safety, there was a decline in shoppers who are willing to visit stores during this year’s Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping period (November 26-27, 2020).

3. Facilitate A Smooth Purchase

  • With the significant growth of online shopping, consumers have done thorough research before they visit brick-and-mortar stores, which reduces the time spent in stores and the chance of contracting COVID-19.
  • Consumers’ increased level of product knowledge is expected to reduce the demand for an extensive network of physical stores.
  • The shop attendants in Canada are expected to be aware of an increasing number of customers who arrive in stores and have already known what they want. Store assistants should facilitate the purchase, which delivers an efficient and pleasant shopping experience to customers.

4. Augmented, Digitized Shopping Experience

  • Due to the social distancing requirement of COVID-19, there is a rising demand for virtual fitting rooms based on AR technology. Although some large apparel stores in the US, such as Lacoste, have already put this innovative solution in place before COVID-19, many retailers now follow suit. This results from the increased expectation of in-store shoppers.
  • Customers in Canada have started to look for a digitized experience in both online and in-store shopping. Retailers are expected to deploy digital tools, such as VR and AR, to create a dynamic and engaging experience for consumers.
  • Apple has recently launched its LiDAR Scanner, which provides customers with an augmented shopping experience by generating detailed measurements of the physical objects on mobile devices. The augmented shopping experience is interesting to consumers, which likely form new expectations in the future.
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at The Digital Momentum with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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