The acceleration of e-commerce adoption in 2020 has fueled 10 years’ worth of growth in 90 days, according to a new study from Periscope by McKinsey. But despite the dominance of online shopping this year, more than 35% of consumers reported that they had not yet experienced the most talked-about retail technologies – suggesting that e-commerce still has a way to go.
Optimizing the online experience has become a critical goal for digital storefronts, whether new or established. Consumers expect a high quality of service and a comparable experience to visiting a store, so e-commerce has become dominated by discussions of mobile payments, “buy online pickup in store,” and interactive digital activations. But McKinsey’s findings suggest that these solutions are not yet being implemented at scale.
“This is a pivotal time where we’re seeing not only changing loyalties and a shifting leaderboard, but an opportunity to really connect with consumers in new ways as they reformulate their habits and decision journeys,” said Brian Ruwadi, senior partner and global leader of Periscope by McKinsey. “As retail leaders plot how they will bounce back, they also need to look beyond the immediate challenges and issues.”
The report, which surveyed 2,500 consumers in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany in both March and late June of this year, found that shoppers are interested in new technologies and willing to shop at new brands. In the U.S. in particular, mobile-based tools were popular and consumers favored mobile payments (30%); mobile app orders (28%); and apps to scan barcodes (25%) as the innovations they wanted to see offered by retailers.
By checking in with consumers at the beginning of the pandemic and then again a few months later, Periscope was able to detect how retailers had adapted to the new circumstances. For U.S. shoppers, the survey found that the online browsing experience had improved in that 3-month period: Sites were deemed visually appealing by 13% more of respondents, while there was a 15% increase in fast load times.
Yet the purchasing experience and fulfillment decreased in performance, likely due to the strain on business infrastructure – common for businesses that have been plugging holes rather than overhauling their systems. There was a 6% decrease in respondents reporting a fast checkout and a 2% decrease in free delivery and returns.
Periscope by McKinsey suggested that investing in mobile payments could improve this statistic, while also appealing to the consumers actively asking for mobile-friendly options. (That demographic that grew by 13% in the U.S. between the March and June surveys.) As shoppers increasingly embrace omnichannel, smartphone sales are expected to continue to grow; purchases may then still be picked up in-store or curbside.
“The ability to pay with a smartphone is the most well-known in-store technology among consumers, yet retailers are not doing a great job at encouraging customers to adopt it,” said the report, noting that only 23% reported using or noticing it.
The stakes were also found to be higher for retailers selling to U.S. consumers, as they were more likely than other shoppers to switch brands; 46% reported trying a new brand during this period. The most common reasons for switching included offering lower prices (51%), offering a better price or value ratio (46%) and supporting employees (27%).