By Jim Herbert, VP and GM of BigCommerce EMEA
The COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding lockdowns have forced more shoppers than ever to move online over the last 18 months. Following the easing of restrictions in April, however, research from Springboard revealed that shoppers were flocking back to the high street in force. In fact, the UK retail footfall total rose to 75% of the total for the same week in 2019 amidst this bounce.
Retail sales have also continued to surge over the past three months. According to the BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor, total retail sales increased by 13.1% in June, against a decline of 1.3% in June 2019.
Jim Herbert, vice president and general manager EMEA at leading global Open SaaS ecommerce platform, BigCommerce, shares his thoughts on how retailers can optimise their ecommerce and in-store offers to manage changing customer expectations as we slowly move out of lockdown.
The shift in consumer behaviour
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has had a significant impact on consumer behaviour. According to McKinsey, a high number of consumers around the world have experimented with new shopping behaviours since the pandemic began. With many stores being forced to close, the increase in online shopping notably shifted.
The ability to offer convenience and personalised shopping experiences gave online retailers an advantage over traditional brick-and-mortar stores. For example, in February 2021, Associated British Foods – the parent company of Primark – announced that the retailer had lost out on sales of £1.1 billion in a six-month period. Meanwhile, online fashion retailer Asos saw retail sales increase by 24% and Boohoo, another online clothing store, also saw UK revenue increase by 39% as online sales continued to surge.
The impact of the return of retail on ecommerce
As restrictions ease and customers head back to the high street, a slight shift in traffic is to be expected. According to research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the total proportion of online sales decreased to 28.5% in May 2021, compared to 29.8% in April 2021 as consumers returned to physical stores.
The retail landscape has changed dramatically over the past year, however, and innovations like “curbside pick-up” and “buy online pick up in-store” have made online shopping even more convenient. This has encouraged customers to adopt and embrace online shopping.
According to research from Linnworks, 76% of consumers say convenience is a key priority when selecting a retailer. Nine in 10 also say they will prioritise using a retail site that offers a seamless experience. With this new landscape and shopping behaviours in mind, it comes as no surprise that the share of ecommerce sales in the retail sector is expected to increase from 13.6% in 2019 to 21.1% by 2023.
Therefore, whilst the return of in-store shopping may have a slight impact on online spending, it looks set to continue to grow. Its ability to offer customers a convenient and personalised shopping experience means there is no holding back.
Adjusting your ecommerce strategy to manage changing customer expectations
With the customer journey continuing to be more dynamic, retailers should consider adopting an all-encompassing omnichannel approach. This strategy will not only provide more channels for customer purchase but, crucially, it improves the overall shopping experience for customers across the different platforms they frequent.
The pandemic has led to a decline in brand loyalty which has seen customers around the world experiment with new shopping behaviours. Retailers can therefore no longer focus all their efforts on a single strategy. Taking an omnichannel approach will allow them to integrate the in-store and online shopping experience, so they can enhance customer satisfaction and mitigate some of the limitations of both channels.
According to a report from PayPal and BigCommerce, the way people pay for purchases is also changing. More customers are using digital wallets both in store and online. With 70% of consumers more likely to spend more at a retailer that offers their preferred payment method, adopting an omnichannel strategy provides an opportunity for retailers to meet these customers where they are the most likely to spend.
To succeed in the post-pandemic retail landscape retailers should identify customer needs and meet expectations by offering a convenient and seamless shopping experience across different platforms — either through a website, social media platforms or in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, but we can be sure that omnichannel is the future.