How the World has Responded to COVID Retail Changes

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By Published On: April 22, 20210 Comments

Every country has dealt with the pandemic in a different way, so it should come as no surprise that each nation has responded to the shifts in business practice in varying ways.

A new report from Bazaarvoice has discovered how consumer behaviour has changed in countries around the world, and the results may surprise you. 

This Bazaarvoice data has been gathered from their network of more than 11,500 global brands and retailers and through surveying over 6,000 consumers in  Australia, France, Germany, the US, UK, Mexico and Canada.

Let’s Start Local

In Australia, it’s safe to say that we were a little late to the online adoption party. In the months from March to December, online retail adoption skyrocketed, with states like Victoria experiencing this doubly with extended lockdown measures. 

Despite this increased interest and dependence on e-commerce, the Bazaarvoice report has found that Aussie shoppers may not be too keen to continue shopping on a screen. In fact, 64 percent of respondents said they would prefer shopping in-store in the next year. Australian consumers now have the largest gap in preference for buying online or in-store. 

An interesting take away from this report shows that Australian consumers are more than happy to make multiple trips to the shops, meaning they’re less likely to buy in bulk. 

The Global Trends

North America

While Australians may be itching to get back into physical stores, consumers around the world aren’t so finicky. According to the report, consumers in the United States are divided when it comes to shopping online vs in-store. In fact, the data shows that 51 percent of American shoppers would be happy to continue shopping using online platforms, compared to the 49 percent who want to return to brick-and-mortar stores. 

Staying in North America, 51 percent of Canadian shoppers said they would prefer to shop in-store than online. However, in order to maintain their interest in shopping in physical stores, 47 percent said they would only do so if stores had COVID precautions, including mask requirements, hand sanitising stations, social distance measurements and capacity limits – this would help shoppers feel safe while they’re in-store. 

Mexican consumers are engaging with online retail in a different way than they were in a pre-COVID landscape. Surprisingly, Mexican shoppers are keen to read reviews, with a whopping 80 percent of shoppers reading reviews before they make a purchase online. In saying this, while 57 percent of consumers said they’d trust translated reviews, the most influential content they wish to see is visual content.

UK and Europe

Similarly, shoppers in the UK are leaning on the potential of e-commerce, with a majority of shoppers (55 percent) choosing online platforms over physical stores in the next 12 months. Of course, this data could likely reflect the current COVID conditions in each country, which is important to take into consideration. 

Across Europe, it’s a different story. Countries like France and Germany are currently driving their shopping habits based on reviews, and often rely on these details before committing to purchase. While this is a common sight globally, there are certain aspects that drive France and Germany apart from others. 

In France, over 40 percent of shoppers said they trust translated reviews, and over half of the shoppers (52 percent) said they always read reviews, no matter what the price point is.  Not only do they read these reviews to get a better idea of the products they wish to purchase, but it is also an excellent tool to help build and establish trust between companies and their customers. 

German shoppers are just as particular about online reviews. According to the report, there is a ‘sweet spot’ for the number of reviews that German consumers will find before making a purchase online: 11-20. An interesting development in the e-commerce space for Germany is the need for visual content. However, German shoppers won’t typically look to social media for these brands and products, which is a different story from Australia.

The Rise and Rise of Private Labels

Convenience and price are often the drivers for shoppers to make a purchase online, and with the increasing interest in private label products, this sentiment continues to ring true in a post-COVID world. 

Bazaarvoice has reported that 55 percent of shoppers have made a private label purchase in the past year, and it doesn’t take a genius to see why. 

What has driven this increase in consumer buying private labels? While there is no doubt that quality control is a major player in this, a shortage of products during the pandemic also played a vital role in the consumer shift. About 60 percent of shoppers reported product shortages during the pandemic, with major scarcity in groceries and cleaning supplies. 

A few years ago, private label products were inferior to branded products, but in recent years, quality controls and improvement of private label products have helped make consumers make informed purchase decisions. 

The report has found that 56 percent of shoppers who bought a private label product enjoyed the item they bought, and a further 52 percent said the item was cheaper than its branded counterpart. 

In fact, a staggering two out of three shoppers believe that store brands are just as high quality as name brands, with groceries taking out the top spot as the most bought private label products (56 percent). Coming in second are home goods (47 percent), such as laundry detergent and dishwasher tablets – in third place is apparel (41 percent).

Digital First, Physical Second?

The 12 months of 2020 radically changed the way the world saw e-commerce. A staggering 60 percent of shoppers have reduced in-store shopping trips, and are turning to brick-and-mortar only if they really need to do so. 

It’s no secret that online adoption was at an all-time high in the early days of the pandemic. Bazaarvoice reported page views increasing by 88 percent year-over-year on their network, and orders rose by 96 percent as well. 

Even as the world sees a light at the end of the COVID tunnel, shoppers are still eager to shop online, with 40 percent of consumers still turning to e-commerce every week, which is up from 28 percent in a pre-pandemic world. 

Consumers are also taking reviews seriously when they shop online – 48 percent of shoppers are now reading reviews more than they did pre-COVID, and a further 63 percent said they would research products online before they head into a store to make a purchase. 

Of course, brick-and-mortar isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The survey reported that just over half of global shoppers would choose shopping online rather than in-store, but this is entirely dependent on the location of each consumer. 

As stated earlier, Australian consumers are leaning more towards physical stores, whereas shoppers in Germany, Mexico and the UK would prefer clicks to bricks. Furthermore, age plays a huge role in preferred shopping channels – shoppers aged under 44 typically opt for online shopping, whereas older consumers play favour to brick-and-mortar. 

What can we take away from this report? Every country has developed new behavioural changes as a result of the pandemic, and there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to e-commerce. Retailers need to evaluate what their consumers want and innovate to reflect these changes as they arrive before it’s too late. 

Read the entire report from Bazaarvoice here

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