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Surge in ecommerce will outlive corona across Europe, consumer research suggest

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The Corona outbreak will speed up the shift from physical retail to e-commerce, which is now happening at a faster pace than previous forecasts. 

The share of consumers that do 50% or more of their total number of purchases online has increased dramatically on all three of Europe’s biggest e-commerce markets. Six out of ten consumers say that they will continue to buy as much online as they do today after the pandemic has passed.

These are a few of the findings in a new report from Kantar commissioned by Detail Online, a leading European e-commerce auditing company.

The Corona pandemic has hit traditional European retailers hard. Social distancing, lockdowns and other measures to control the spread have hampered or sometimes eliminated the possibility to shop in stores or supermarkets.

In Kantar’s Global Covid-19 Barometer, conducted in March this year, 20% of consumers globally said they shop less in physical stores, 9 percent said they do more of their shopping online, and 32% said they expected their share of online shopping to increase even more. 

A new Kantar study, commissioned by Detail Online, covering Europe’s three largest e-commerce markets: France, Germany and the UK, now shows that the share of consumers that do more than half of their total purchases online has increased with between 25 and 80 percent since the outbreak of Covid-19. 

The Covid-19 outbreak has resulted in large parts of society being been shut down to limit the spread of the Corona virus. As a consequence, a majority of consumers have changed their buying patterns, focusing their spending on essential goods such as groceries and over-the-counter drugs. But according to the study, spending on clothes, home & furniture and consumer electronics will come back during the year.

“During lockdown focus is on the main essentials, but this report indicates that all the major e-commerce categories will bounce back to even higher levels when the epidemic has passed. And when they do it’s essential that brand owners have the bare essentials in place to meet the demand. ‘Are my products visible when consumers search for them at online retailers’, is a question all brands should ask themselves right now,” says Detail Online founder, Joakim Gavelin. 

In the survey, approximately 80% say they will return to shop non-essentials online in 2020. The biggest categories are clothing and home electronics, where 50 to 60% state they plan to do purchases online in 2020.

“2020 is not lost,” adds Gavelin. “Right now, there’s a huge potential for brand owners to increase online sales in 2020. This report tells us that the change in consumer behaviour that many expected to take three to four years is instead happening in a few months. To be a winner in this you need to have as good control of your products online as you would at a physical retailer. One example is that up to 40% of items can be wrongly listed as out of stock at an online retailer, and that was before the massive shift we have experienced now. I cannot even imagine how those numbers might be now, given the present pressure on the online retailers.”

The study also finds that Millennials plan the most online purchases for 2020 and their plans mainly include buying garments and home electronics. Sports and Fashion is the category where the second largest bounce-back is expected, with between 51 and 63% of respondents saying they are planning online purchases in 2020.

Older age groups state they expect to maintain their new online shopping behaviour after the epidemic.

The study was conducted by Kantar from 26-30 March 2020. A total of 3162 people aged between 16-64 participated via an Internet omnibus survey in the UK, Germany and France.

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