With the increasing shift to online channels this past year, consumers digital preferences have matured and expectations have risen. Personalization, customer journeys and online experiences are being scrutinized more than ever and those who have traditionally shopped at brick-and-mortar locations are expecting the same experiences online that they have received at physical locations.
Take a look at some of the ways COVID-19 has altered shopping behavior:
- The number of orders placed online and picked up at brick-and-mortar stores by customers grew 208% during the pandemic.
- 59% of customers say they are more likely to continue curbside pickup after the pandemic. (Retail Dive)
- 30% of online consumers prefer using BOPIS (Buy online, Pickup In Store) or curbside over delivery.
- Many consumers are now exclusively shopping online, even baby boomers who never did before. Online sales grew nearly 50% at the peak of the pandemic as consumers stayed home but continued to shop.
- 87% of U.S. consumers prefer to shop at stores that have touchless or robust self-checkout options. (Shekel)
- 79% of consumers say they will continue to use self-checkout or increase their usage after COVID-19. (McKinsey)
- 36% of consumers now shop online weekly, an increase from 28% before the pandemic. (Selligent)
- Globally, 49% of consumers shop online more now than they did pre-COVID-19. (Bazaarvoice)
- 62% of U.S. shoppers say they shop more online now than they did before the pandemic. (Bazaarvoice)
Consumers are clearly shopping more online but how are they using digital channels to purchase and what do they expect from online engagements with brands? Cheetah Digital recently examined these trends in new research.
Email Still Reigns Supreme
Email is one of the most effective channels for reaching and engaging with consumers and the same still holds true today.
When asked, “Have you ever made a purchase from any of the following in the last 12 months?”, email was the most popular channel at 45%. In fact, email outperformed SMS by 92% and banner ads by over 39%.
Social Purchasing is Rising in Popularity
Not far behind email is social. 43% of consumers stated they have made a purchase due to a social post.
In a survey by PWC, 37% of online shoppers say they use social media for “purchase inspiration.”
This is higher than any other form of online media, including retailer websites, price comparison websites, and multi-brand websites.
According to an article by Marketing Charts, these findings are backed up by research from Engagement Labs, which has found that social media conversations alone drive an estimated 9% of consumer sales in the US.
Previous research has also revealed that social media influences the purchase decisions of about half of US Millennials and that 85% of Gen Z consumers use social media to learn about new products.
Customer Experience and the Online Consumer
While price will always be a deciding factor for consumers, customer experience isn’t far behind and consumers are rewarding their loyalty to brands that deliver. In the research by Cheetah Digital, 83% of consumers stated they like a consistent shopping experience, irrespective of the channel. That means having all channels not only connected, but a single source of truth for customer data to power it.
“Thinking about your favorite brand that has communicated with you a lot over the last six months. . .
However, personalization often falls short. More than half of consumers report they are comfortable sharing their data with a brand in exchange for better service, but there is a line between creepy and cool. 74% of consumers surveyed think it’s cool when a brand or retailer makes recommendations based on past purchases and 54% are happy with an email reminder or ad about a product they’ve abandoned in an online shopping cart.
However, 52% of consumers said that it’s creepy to see ads on social media sites based on recent shopping experiences on other sites, receive personalized offers after staying on a brand’s site for more than 2 minutes (54%), or just downright uncool for 69% of consumers who receive an advertisement related to something that talked about near a smart device.
Overall, consumers will be loyal to brands they like but the pandemic has created opportunities to acquire shoppers from competing brands:
- 73% of U.S. consumers have changed stores, brands or the way they shop. (McKinsey)
- 25% of consumers have tried a new private-label brand. (McKinsey)
- Of consumers who have tried different brands, 73% intend to continue using those new brands. (McKinsey)
- 39% of consumers say they will purchase more in the future from brands that responded well to the crisis. (Deloitte)
According to Cheetah Digital, 29% of consumers are not loyal to a given brand because the brand did nothing to encourage their loyalty even though they are a frequent shopper.
64% of consumers are prepared to pay more to purchase from a trusted brand. When it comes to driving loyalty, the top driver is to have a great product or service. Following, 22% of consumers value a brand’s loyalty program 22%, 22% value good customer support and 21% value a brand that is convenient to use.
eCommerce Will Continue to Rise
While life will certainly revert to a new normal at some point, consumers enjoy buying online and expect to stick with it for the foreseeable future. In fact, 39% expect to buy more from digital channels. Smart brands will need to continue to focus on digital experiences and delivering personalized communications across the entire purchase journey.
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