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Online shopping surges by 129% across UK and Europe and ushers in new customer expectations of etail

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Online shopping rates continue to surge, growing 129% week-on-week in UK and Europe, according to the latest research – and it is rapidly shifting customer expectations of what they get from ecommerce.

Original research of 1,000 consumers in the Covid-19 and the Consumer Report from Astound Commerce finds that, as shoppers shift to online, their expectations of ecommerce experiences will be rapidly accelerated, with contactless services, convenience and increasingly ethical considerations becoming the principal factors driving purchasing decisions.

Contactless retail has enabled omnichannel retailers the ability to provide shoppers with immediate order fulfilment, albeit at a distance, either via pick-up or roadside delivery.  In March, click and collect features saw an increase of more than a third (35%) week-on-week, as retailers and shoppers adapted quickly to social distancing measures. 

Contact-free delivery options have become the industry’s answer to the isolation mandate and moving forward it is an option that should be adopted by all retailers to meet changed customer expectations.

As consumers engaged in panic-buying in order to stock up on essential products, out-of-stocks became a common occurrence for many and up to 50% of shoppers experienced product availability inaccuracies when shopping online.  Lack of available product also saw over a fifth (22%) of shoppers having to pay a premium for a particular item, with the ONS reporting that a typical UK shopping basket now costs 4.4% more than it did before the lockdown. 

Moving ahead, post-pandemic retailers will need more accurate, up-to-the-minute inventory information to prevent shopper frustrations, especially in times of adversity.

With consumers prioritising spend on food, healthcare and cleaning products – the volume of online food transactions surged 173%  month-on-month in March the latest figures from iAdvize suggest, other sectors, such as fashion, have seen demand fall away – for now. 

Quick to pivot, many fashion brands, such as Barbour, are adapting their production to help with the coronavirus relief effort, manufacturing PPE for healthworkers.  Conscious consumerism will continue to dominate in the short term and in the long term, it’s predicted consumers will reward brands that have made social contributions during the pandemic.

While the natural, and in many cases necessary, reaction to tough environmental conditions may be to slash expenses, resources must be allocated with an eye to the future, as Terry Hunter, Managing Director of Astound Commerce UK, explains.

“This immediate shift to online has tested many companies’ ability to be agile and successfully scale their business to meet these increased shopper demands,” he says. “There is no denying this is a genuine crisis. But the commerce realm is no arena for the faint of heart; crises come and go as part of the normal business cycle. The retail industry will get through this and the companies that emerge intact likely will have made similar decisions regarding customer service, where and when to spend, and technological commitment.”

Hunter adds: “During this particular moment, it’s essential to remain committed to digital. It’s clear that digital commerce will drive future revenues. That was the trend before COVID-19, and the virus will only accelerate the process as the strain on brick-and-mortar grows.”

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