Online retail has seen considerable growth over the past year, with Amazon announcing a 44% increase in sales revenue. However, research has revealed some surprising results when it comes to today’s consumer-shopping trends.
Out of necessity, many UK consumers shifted to online shopping when Covid-19 hit, and Amazon has unsurprisingly become a pandemic mainstay. When asked by ‘Near Me’ brand experience company Uberall why they shop online with Amazon.co.uk, lower prices were actually less significant a reason than the large product selection and fast/free shipping, with half of respondents choosing these factors as their motivation.
Trust and recommendations were also key factors for consumers to shop at Amazon.co.uk, with 39% influenced by the trustworthiness of Amazon and 38% persuaded by its product reviews.
Yet, despite the growth in online shopping, when consumers were asked what best describes their shopping behaviour, the top answer was, “I shop locally even when it’s more expensive or less convenient” – with 63% reporting they strongly favour local shopping.
Consumers also aren’t limiting their definition of shopping locally to small businesses, with nearly 3 out of 4 considering national brands, such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, “local businesses”. Despite being nationwide, consumers may still view these big brands as local businesses because their stores have a familiar neighbourhood presence, and have historically operated predominantly on the high street, versus online.
Even with the substantial increase in online shopping over the past year, only 15% said they shop online because it’s easier. The remainder favoured local shopping (63%) or were equally willing to buy online or off (22%).
When it comes to buying locally, price holds the most sway, with 72% of consumers influenced by it. The proximity of the business to the consumer comes in at a distant second, with 42% of respondents influenced by nearness.
Similar to consumer motivations with Amazon shopping, ratings or reviews factor in as well, with 36% of consumers persuaded by reviews when it comes to buying locally.
As for how consumers are thinking about shopping after Covid, only 14% said most of their shopping would be online. The remainder either favoured stores (34%) or were omnichannel shoppers and willing to shop online or in-store based on variables such as price, convenience and product availability. Interestingly, the desire of UK consumers to shop in stores is on par with their US counterparts, but less than both Germany (38%) and France (55%). The notable difference between the UK and its continental neighbour could be attributed to the well-known image of the French buying local, artisan goods, toting a freshly baked baguette from the corner boulangerie.
For consumers, the number one preferred way to shop is to research online and buy in a store. Given that smartphone usage is higher than ever, and more than half of Google searches are ’near me’ – meaning location-based – queries, it’s no wonder this is the case. Interestingly, only 20% of respondents reported they prefer to research an item online and buy it online, compared to the 38% that research online, but buy in store.
Consumers are also combining online and in store purchases through click and collect, with 20% expressing a preference for this mode of shopping. On the other hand, only 16% prefer to see an item in store then buy online.
Consumers are truly omnichannel shoppers now, shopping both online and offline, and valuing the ability to access and return things in stores. Having a physical store to support the online shopping experience is vital to consumers, with 79% agreeing that being able to return an online purchase to a local store is important. In fact, the ability to return online purchases in store directly impacts on sales conversion, with 2 out of 3 shoppers reporting they are more likely to buy something online if it can be returned to a store.
“Clearly e-commerce accelerated last year, out of necessity, but shoppers show few signs of abandoning local businesses,” comments Greg Sterling, VP Market Insights at Uberall. “The data reveal that the post-Covid consumer is a true omnichannel buyer, who appreciates the immediacy of stores and the convenience of online. Those retailers that can offer a compelling hybrid experience will be the winners in this next phase of retail’s evolution.”