In March 2020, the world faced a sudden and unexpected disruption to everyday life on a global scale. Consumerism was turned on its head, and shopping habits shifted drastically, almost overnight.
Of course, the biggest shift was the move to online shopping and digital experiences. In mid-2020 in the US, between 30% and 50% of people grocery shopping online were doing so for the first time. If not for the pandemic, these people may never have felt the need to move to digital. And the impact went way beyond groceries. Even engagement ring purchases became part of the trend towards “curbside pickup”.
Something fundamental in consumer behavior has changed. How people will shop after COVID is a question whose answer is still evolving. That’s why retailers must keep up to date, so they can be in the best position to innovate and thrive.
Here are several trends we can see happening now, and what they might mean for shopping after COVID.
Hybrid is here to stay
One of the key shifts in consumerism is the move towards “hybrid”, a blend of digital and real-world experiences. Even before the pandemic, many brands operated brick-and-mortar stores and online stores concurrently. However, hybrid behaviors, such as telehealth and Zoom meetings, have become much more ingrained since COVID. In retail, there are many ways that consumers enjoy the hybrid experience beyond simple shopping. For example, 58% of survey respondents said they checked online to ensure the item they wanted was in stock before heading out to the store.
Shoppers love convenience
There are so many advantages to digital shopping, and the key one is convenience. Shopping online saves time and aggravation. For example, 81% of consumers now search online before going to the store, up 20% from the previous year. During the 2020 holiday season, one in two US consumers used “click and collect.” Curbside pickup and in-store pickup became huge hits during the pandemic, and there is every indication that this will continue.
But they also love social interaction
The move towards online is a positive step that consumers demand, but it doesn't provide the social interaction they also need. This is one of the reasons why the hybrid model is so popular – it incorporates the best of both the digital and brick-and-mortar worlds. Research by BAIN demonstrates that while online shopping will remain popular post pandemic, socially interactive consumer experiences in Physical Stores remain the top preference for diamond jewelry buyers.
E-commerce is more than just being online
Consumers want more from e-commerce than just online shopping. During the pandemic, brands and business owners had to innovate and improvise to keep customers engaged and satisfied. For example, Gucci, the Italian fashion luxury house shows what sophisticated augmented reality shopping looks like. Since last year, customers have been able to use an AR feature in the Gucci app to try on their items at any time and from anywhere with a simple push of a button.
Brands that are agile enough to expand their e-commerce beyond a simple webstore, and provide the services and experiences that consumers want, will fare well in the post-pandemic world.
The customer experience is what matters
There is a golden rule in retail that is more important now than ever – it always comes down to the customer experience. Digital, online, instore, this is of secondary importance. How a customer engages with a brand, their journey before, during and after purchase, is and will always be the key to retail success. According to a recent survey, 38% of consumers say they will continue to shop online, and will visit stores to enjoy great experiences. The pandemic has opened many more possibilities of how to create better customer experiences, using digital tools and an innovative mindset.
Rather than simply asking “what should our online store look like?”, retailers should consider what their customer experience should look like. In diamond purchasing, Sarine provides retailers with digital diamond reports that can be fully customized to the retailer's brand and can be shared online. This report provides an all-in-one solution by creating a visually stunning high-end customer experience that can be accessed online, in-store, and on social media.
Constant Innovation is the new future
Although the status of post-COVID consumerism is not yet clear, there are some trends beginning to stand out. No matter what happens, when we finally say goodbye to the pandemic, retailers and brands who can innovate and reinvent themselves will be the ones to thrive. That means keeping a close eye on shopping trends and consumer shifts as they happen. And it also means keeping up to date with the wide range of advanced digital retail tools available today that can be leveraged to support the innovative mindset that is essential to success.
If you’re looking for ways to keep up with the new consumerism trends get in touch with our experts to learn how you can make use of technology for your brand and always stay ahead of the curve.