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EDITORIAL How do shoppers want to buy post-pandemic – and how are retailers responding?

The last year has tested questions of whether shoppers prefer to buy online or in stores. So, just over a year on from the first Covid-19 lockdown, and two weeks on from non-essential stores reopening, what do we now know about shoppers’ behaviour? 

The latest footfall figures suggest shoppers are returning to stores at levels that are both higher than after the previous lockdown, and lower than before the pandemic started. At the same time, a consumer survey from customer experience specialist MullenLowe Profero suggests that while around a third of shoppers are keen to go back to the way they used to buy, more than half will now buy more online than they did before – including 71% of those who had never previously bought online. That suggests the base level for online shopping may well remain higher than before the pandemic – and shoppers may spend less time in shops than they did. That could suggest that online will take sales away from stores. However, that picture is mitigated by suggestions that overall spending is now rising, according to the latest CBI distributive trade survey. The CBI survey does not look at how people spend but at how much they buy – and suggests that shoppers are spending more than they have for some time. Sales volumes are deemed good for the time of year for the first time since December 2020 by the 60 retailers that take part in the survey of 124 businesses – and are at their highest since June 2018. 

In the meantime, retailers have used the enforced closures and the shift online to come up with new ways to sell. Today we report as Waitrose expands its Deliveroo trial to 150 stores in a two-year partnership, as ghd expands into China via a Tmall virtual store and real-world pop-ups, and on research that suggests fashion retailers are benefiting through higher levels of app downloads after working with mobile game developers

Today’s guest comment comes from Sakshi Anand of GoDaddy who considers how a year of lockdowns has inspired micro-businesses to head online. 

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