Retail has been forced to pivot its strategy for 2020, but businesses are now starting to make investments and prepare for 2021 and beyond. To do so, they need to consider which shifts are permanent and which have merely been the result of the current circumstances. A new survey by Bazaarvoice suggests that brands will see their newly acquired customers stick around post-pandemic – as long as the company’s future strategy caters to them.
E-commerce marketing platform Bazaarvoice surveyed 8,000 consumers across the U.K., U.S., Australia, Canada, France and Germany about the changes in their shopping behavior and the likelihood that these would continue. The main takeaways from the report suggest that while consumers have changed brand allegiance and the products they use, they haven’t given up on traditional methods of shopping.
There is positive news for brick-and-mortar businesses: Almost half (40%) of the survey respondents answered that they would be comfortable or very comfortable visiting a non-essential store in the next three months. While e-commerce growth has rapidly accelerated during 2020, experts observe that many consumers still prefer to shop in-store when able.
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Therefore, brands that pivoted away from store retail and toward online selling will want to give due attention to their physical locations and explore how to make the space appealing. There are now expectations for safety and hygiene that must be met in order to appease customers. The survey found that the most important considerations include hand sanitizer stations (70%); mandatory masks for staff and customers (69%); and accommodations for social distancing within the store (62%).
Updating store spaces may also be necessary in order to cater to the new customer bases that brands have acquired during the pandemic – and who are planning to continue to shop with them, according to Bazaarvoice.
The company found that 39% of shoppers purchased from a new brand during the last few months, with younger shoppers the most open-minded. In fact, 55% of 18- to 24-year-olds purchased from a different or previously unknown brand in that period. Motivations for this change varied, but brand response to the pandemic was a common reason. While 44% attributed their new engagement with a brand to their crisis response, existing customers also were affected: 72% said that brand response would affect their loyalty.
Crucially, of those who tried a new brand, a large majority (83%) said that they would continue to buy from that company going forward. Independent retailers were one of the biggest winners of this development, with 72% of respondents saying that they will continue to support local and independent stores over larger retailers like Amazon.
This is positive news for companies that were able to communicate effectively and grow their audience during 2020. But this growth must be maintained and so brands should analyze who their new customers are, in order to ensure that future brand strategy caters to them, recommended Bazaarvoice.
For instance, shoppers who first visited the brand online will need to be served an equally good consumer experience in-store, while still providing something new. Brands that made commitments to employee welfare — and won customers in the process — should also reflect this at their brick-and-mortar locations because 60% of shoppers expect to hear about how brands are keeping their employees safe.
Bazaarvoice also emphasized the opportunity for subscription-based services to keep the new customers gained during the pandemic. A fifth of shoppers said they had signed up to a new service in that period; of those, 83% said that they would be willing to continue post-pandemic. This marks a permanent shift in behavior, but only if brands can maintain perceived value. The survey found that customers cared most about convenience (43%), quality of the product (44%) and reliable delivery (35%).