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EDITORIAL How shoppers restyle ecommerce as omni-channel

Image: Adobe Stock

Image: Adobe Stock

News that Sainsbury’s has seen profits drop 39% masks the fact that it, like so many other retailers, has seen a surge in online sales. It, for one, saw online rise from 8 to 17% of total sales over 2020 and its revamp of Argos and Habitat has been driven, in no small part, by thrusting uptake of online in lockdown.

French fashion and homeware giant La Redoute, too, is leveraging online to grow and develop its business, looking to expand not only what it sells in its Native France, but also to expand across the globe through running its own enterprise marketplace.

These are just two examples of how retailers are having to respond to rapid and permanent changes in consumer behaviour. Adobe’s global index of shopper behaviour shows that the UK’s ecommerce spending in Q1 grew by 54% YoY, reaching £28bn in spend. This is considerably faster than the global average of 38%.

While much of this was driven by people forced to shop online with the shops shut, there has also been a marked arrival of many new online shoppers. It found that 15% of consumers that shopped online in March this year had never bought anything online before lockdown restrictions came into force in March 2020.

According to Adobe, 44% of shoppers are also doing much of their ecommerce on smartphones, which chimes with another research report out this week from Bazaarvoice, which suggests that this smartphone behaviour is more complex than you might imagine.

Not only are 61% of consumers globally more likely to browse for new products online compared to in-store, but that they also find it easier (64%) and more enjoyable (54%). However, when it comes to clicking ‘buy’ they are not so sure.

Its research shows that, across devices, smartphones are the top choice for browsing online for over half of consumers (52%), followed by laptops (23%), and desktop (11%) computers. With immediate access at the fingertips of UK consumers, they spend more time browsing for products online compared to in-store, with the majority of those shopping online (53%) spending more than 15 minutes browsing in a single session. This compares to just over a third (38%) spending the same amount of time browsing in shops. 

That said, the continued accessibility of essential retail amidst national restrictions means that when it comes to committing to a purchase, 71% of consumers buy in-store at least once a week, compared to 46% making weekly online purchases. Equally, almost two-thirds (64%) of British consumers are likely to buy a spur-of-the-moment item while shopping in-store, compared to 51% likely to do so online. 

This resurgence of in-store for ‘sealing the deal’ is interesting as it shows that, with shops now open, shoppers are perhaps more omni-channel than previous studies during lockdown suggests.

One this is clear: they have definitely changed their behaviour, but it doesn’t mean that stores are dead. The real threat to retail may not come from the web as we know it, but from how supermarkets may use it to transform themselves into Amazon-style marketplaces. Now that could be scary.

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