Online shopping-accelerating growth

In the past year, online shopping has been on the rise. In a survey of British shoppers by Mintel, 42% of respondents said that they have done more online shopping since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a story familiar to the whole world.

Although retailers are eagerly looking forward to the craze of "retaliatory shopping" returning to the store, for many people, online shopping still exists, and consumers won't abandon their screens anytime soon.

Digital commerce stems from the fear of infection, because it is usually the only option. It will continue to be popular because it becomes more complex, faster to deliver, and the subscription model simply because shoppers are so familiar with it now.

Five necessary conditions for online shopping

Retailers have long recognized that they need to provide online shopping and offline services, and this fact has been highlighted in the blockade. Now, when we consider what the retail industry will look like in the post-pandemic era, retailers are planning their future long-term online shopping strategies. We studied the trends and changes facing retailers and saw five key priorities for those who want to ensure a successful digital commerce operation.

Changing demographic
One of the biggest shifts in digital commerce over the last year has been who uses it, with the most growth in shoppers aged over 65. Mintel’s research  found that whilst prior to the pandemic they were the most reluctant online shoppers (just 16% of them shopped online at least once a week), by early 2021, they were in the same bracket as all other shoppers when it came to increasing their online transactions.
This shift is driven by the over 65s having the greatest fear of infection, coupled with less financial impact than their younger counterparts and less hassle in being home for deliveries.

Design and navigation
The more familiar consumers get with online shopping, the more demanding they become. They want to find things quickly, make comparisons, get clear information and checkout easily. Accessibility becomes more important too, as the older demographic grows.
But at the same time, retailers need to be positioning for new ways of interacting, such as voice command (the popularity of which has been driven by digital assistants Hey Google and Alexa) and image search.

Retailers who rely on digital retail have the challenge of balancing a smooth process for shoppers with protection for themselves. They certainly want to make the checkout easy as possible, in the face of statistics that show that a staggering 87% of online shoppers will abandon their cart if the process is too long or complicated or time-consuming. And 55% would never return to the site again.
But retailers do need to ensure that whilst making life easy for legitimate shoppers, they also have robust security processes for online shopping to identify and stop visitors who are there for fraudulent purposes.

The lines between offline and online shopping have long been blurring – for example hybrid transactions such as BOPIS/Click and Collect and Curbside pickup. Or the way that ‘digital native’ retailers are moving into the traditional bricks and mortar space. As Retail Touchpoints reported, Westfield malls are offering space for ‘pop-up or full store concepts for digitally native vertical brands’. Increasingly we’re seeing online stores in offline spaces.
This means that customers don’t differentiate like they may once have done. To them, shopping in the world of omnichannel, offline is online, online is offline, and they expect same brand experience whatever the platform.

Infrastructure for scale
Online shopping still relies on physical infrastructure for fulfilment and retailers have to ensure that their online store has the supporting systems to get the goods to clients (and back again if required). That means having the warehouse space and systems to efficiently store, pick and pack goods; an efficient BOPIS or curbside pickup process; a well-managed and rapid delivery process – whether that is managed in-house, or outsourced; and a strategy for returns, whether they are accepted in store or sent directly back to the warehouse.
This infrastructure has to be able to do the job now, and to scale as digital commerce continue to grow. On a busy day in a bricks and mortar store, people crowd in, or queue around the block. An online retail store, under the same customer pressure, must have the capacity to handle an increased number of transactions without batting a digital eyelid. Delivery too, has to be able to scale, and contactless technologies including drones and driverless vehicles are becoming a reality.

A positive shopping experience

The growth in online shopping has changed the retail landscape and it will play an increased role in retail strategy in the future. By considering the five imperatives above, retailers can enhance their digital offering, integrate it with their store presence and offer customers a truly positive offline and online shopping experience.

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