It is no surprise that the shopping behaviour of the average customer in the UK has drastically changed over the last few years. And the covid-19 pandemic has contributed and amplified that change in a manner that has left a lasting impact on several industries.
Some of these changes include a dramatic increase in online shopping, a greater interest in environmentally conscious retailers, and a greater importance being placed on social media presence.
With an estimated 75% increase in online shopping shown by consumers compared to pre-pandemic times, it’s no wonder that companies are on the lookout for ways to adapt to these trends, keep their businesses relevant, and reach their customers in an effective manner.
But what exactly caused these changes? Which industries have been most affected? And what can they do to remain up-to-date and desirable to their customer base?
The 5 biggest changes in consumer behaviour
With the popularity of e-commerce and the subsequent advent of digital marketing, it’s no wonder that consumer behaviour has changed over the last decade. But the recent pandemic has brought into focus some of the key changes that appear to remain long term. These changes not only affect brands on how they make themselves more accessible to consumers but also, on how they are marketed.
So, what are the 5 biggest changes in consumer behaviour?
1. Increase in online shopping
The single biggest change in consumer behaviour is in the manner in which shopping is being done. Online shopping has seen massive growth accounting for almost 20% of the total business turnover in the country.
By contrast, offline or in-person shopping has seen an equally steep decline. This has naturally impacted the way in which retailers are displaying their brands with a significant number shifting towards e-commerce.
By June of last year, over 85,000 businesses in the UK had launched online stores or platforms in order to maximise on the current retail behaviour.
2. Variety of search and research options used
With the increase in online shopping, it is only natural that brands and products are being searched for and found via different channels. With over 54% of all Google searches being done on mobile phones, consumers are employing search options such as voice searches to conduct searches.
This means that when designing websites, it is important to make them mobile-friendly or even practise the mobile-first approach.
3. Rise in “click and collect”
The click and collect option is a method of transaction that allows customers to choose when and where the product purchased is collected by them. Essentially, they can “click” to make the online purchase, and then select when they can come to collect at the store.
The main benefit of click to collect is that it allows customers to decide when the collection is done. And it removes the wait, uncertainty, and risk of missed deliveries. This results in more control and convenience.
4. Shift in attitudes towards brands
It’s no surprise that with an increase in social awareness, consumer attitudes towards brands and how they are viewed have been altered significantly. At the forefront of this shift is the emphasis on sustainability.
With climate change being regarded equally as significant as the covid-19 pandemic, it is easy to understand why consumers are more environmentally conscious than ever. With this shift, comes a shift in the perception of brands, with consumers researching the sustainability and environmental impact on the products before purchase.
5. Supporting small businesses
The covid-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on businesses worldwide, but more so on small business owners. This awareness has made consumers more conscious of their roles in promoting and supporting small businesses, particularly locally based ones.
Social media hashtags such as #supportinglocal and #supportingsmallbusinesses have brought more awareness to this issue, with as many as 86% of shoppers willing to pay extra or go out of their way to shop at local businesses.
What has caused this shift?
A number of factors have played a role in creating these changes. Some of the most influential of these are:
1. The covid-19 pandemic
Unsurprisingly, the covid-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns enforced, have made a profound impact on shopping behaviour. With limited access to stores, travel restrictions, and even social distancing protocols, consumers have shifted to online shopping and all that it entails.
Now, even with the ease of restrictions, a majority of these consumers are reluctant to return to in-store shopping. What started out as an initially required change has led to a long-term solution.
This is particularly apparent among the older generations whose early reluctance, stemming from uncertainty regarding e-commerce, has turned into enthusiastic approval.
2. Speed and convenience
Another big factor that has affected consumer behaviour is the speed and convenience that shoppers experience when shopping from an online platform. The ability to shop from the comfort of your own home and have access to products that would otherwise be unreachable is an appealing incentive.
And with the option for home delivery, getting weekly groceries, medicines and other essentials has never been so easy. This especially holds true for elderly shoppers and those with limited mobility. In essence, the e-commerce world has been shown not to discriminate and is therefore widely appreciated.
3. Ease of discovery and product research
Searching for, locating, and researching a specific product or service has never been easier. All the information is readily available at the click of a button. And instead of asking around for a friend’s or neighbour’s opinion, a comprehensive online review by a wide audience enables consumers to make informed decisions before committing to a purchase.
Which industries have been most affected by this change?
With all these changes, very few businesses have been left unaffected. Some industries such as food delivery and the apparel industry have always been incredibly popular e-commerce sectors. And the covid-19 outbreak only served to strengthen their online presence and sales. This is largely due to the fact that these services were already in place, and tried and tested by consumers, long before the pandemic.
Conversely, e-commerce sectors such as e-learning platforms and grocery delivery services were less popular and were not as widely used. However, they have adapted well and are now ranked as industries that have incredible growth and potential.
E-learning in particular has seen impressive growth. This is due to the wide range of courses made accessible to students and the convenience with which students can select them. This is particularly apparent among companies. Over 80% of companies state that they have used e-learning platforms to learn necessary skills that give them a competitive edge.
How can brands adapt to this change?
The most successful brands and retailers are those which can quickly adapt and evolve according to the changes in customer reviews, customer experiences and consumer behaviour. This may involve a significant overhaul in marketing and branding strategies. But the quick adaptation should ultimately result in long-term consumer loyalty.
Ideally, businesses should focus on these 4 steps:
One of the best ways to learn and understand consumer behaviour is to conduct market research that is specifically focused on gathering data required for a particular purpose. This allows brands to narrow down on the type and context of the data collected.
Developing strategies based on gathered data
Developing strategies that answer shortfalls in consumer experiences show the customer base that the brand cares about their opinions and views, listens to them, and responds accordingly.
For instance, recent data has shown consumers have an interest in returning to in-store shopping to those stores which follow health guidelines. Retailers could make use of this information to ensure that their stores follow all the required health protocols and market them are “safe stores to visit”.
Implementing an omnichannel marketing strategy
Omnichannel marketing refers to a customer-centric marketing approach in which brands integrate several different channels, both online and offline, to interact with customers, provide real-time information, create greater engagement, and create an overall better customer experience.
By sharing a consistent brand vision throughout various channels and personalising messages to reflect consumer needs, brands create incredible opportunity for both engagement and revenue.
Strengthening ties with consumers
All these strategies have the end goal of creating customer loyalty. This can be achieved through understanding consumer needs and meeting them. But that is easier said than done.
Brands must consistently research evolving customer shopping behaviour, listen to customer feedback, connect with consumers regularly and effectively, and adapt to changing customer behaviours.
This is particularly important when consumer behaviour is showing such a dramatic shift. Brands must adapt and evolve to retain customer loyalty.
The covid-19 pandemic has brought with it a lot of change. This also holds true for the retail sector, particularly with respect to consumer behaviour. And all the data suggests that these changes in the shopping behaviours of a UK customer are here to stay.
As such, brands and retailers must move towards embracing these changes. The best way to achieve this is by responding to this shift and reacting accordingly.
This should ideally include creating a stronger online presence, redesigning websites to include mobile-first and mobile-friendly options, implementing an omnichannel marketing strategy, and creating a stronger brand identity.
If you are looking to do the same for your business and reach your brands true potential, contact us at Serendipity Int. We create bespoke digital marketing strategies that help you to maximise the potential of your online presence.