With more than a quarter of shoppers now planning to spend more online after the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, retailers with a limited (or no) online proposition must consider investment in order to remain competitive – but they mustn’t ignore stores, either.
Research across the board shows that shoppers are moving online during lockdown, but many are still going to stores – a trend that is set to continue post-coronavirus. Making sure that any given retailer has the best online presence, best store experience and can manage the two simultaneously will be crucial to survival going forward.
According to Thomas Brereton, Retail Analyst at GlobalData: “Almost all non-food physical retailers in the UK have suffered immensely from the closure of stores and will be eagerly awaiting government updates on plans to reopen at the start of June (at the earliest). But COVID-19 is drawing a permanent scar on the landscape of UK retail, and one that easing restrictions will not heal.”
According to Brereton, 42.6% of UK shoppers are spending more than usual online at the moment – predominantly on food, household, clothing and entertainment. However, of those, 61.0% plan to keep doing so after the pandemic, driven by the convenience home delivery offers or the fear of travelling to busy shopping locations.
And as the online channel grows, pressure will mount on offline retailers to retain sales – for some players, to fatal levels.”
Research across Europe and the US by Blue Yonder, however, is more optimistic as to how retailers can make this new way of shopping work.
It surveyed 6,000 European adult consumers in April and 1,000 US adult consumers in both March and April and found that stock availability was at the heart of the issue, with many shoppers forced online from in-store and vice versa by lack of stock in their original choice of channel.
It found that, in the US, almost nine in ten (87%) consumers encountered out-of-stock products during their most recent shopping experience in March, while three quarters (75%) were more likely to buy the same product from a different retailer if their desired product was out of stock. 78% were more likely to buy a different brand of product from the same retailer if their desired brand of that product was out of stock, based on the April survey.
In Europe, more than a third (38%) of shoppers said their favourite items and brands are more often out of stock at grocery retailers, compared to the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis and that, within grocery retail, before the COVID-19 crisis, only 48% of shoppers cited stock availability as important, after price (72%) and range of products (54%).
However, stock availability is now the most important (58%), ahead of price (56%) and range of products (39%).
“Shopping patterns are shifting, and we are seeing a resurgence of the big weekly food shop and it is clear that consumers are willing to compromise on product and price, provided the items they need are in stock,” comments JoAnn Martin, vice president of retail industry strategy at Blue Yonder. “Retailers must think about the knock-on effect this behavioural shift will have on availability and adjust product assortments in line. For example, if they find people seeking the security of purchasing a larger number of longer-life items, due to lockdown restrictions or supply problems, retailers could consider scaling back the number of fresh items on offer.”
Wayne Snyder, vice president of retail strategy EMEA at Blue Yonder, adds: “It is clear that both online and in-store shopping behaviour will change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the one hand, many retailers are going to need to ramp up their online fulfilment operations to meet growing customer demand and expectations. On the other, they will need to carefully consider the changing role of their store estates in terms of supporting both their online and offline business in the future.”