44% say COVID-19 will have ‘permanent impact’ on way they shop

More than two in five (44 per cent) of customers feel that the pandemic will have a permanent impact on the way they shop moving forward - with nearly half (47 per cent) stating that the number of times they shop online will definitely increase, according to a new report.

A survey of 2,000 online consumers by O2 Business and Retail Economics found that the COVID-19 lockdown had driven a profound shift in spending habits, with more than a third (34 per cent) of shoppers sourcing essential and non-essential items from online retailers during lockdown.

The report reveals that nearly half (49 per cent) of customers are spending more time researching potential retail purchases online than they were before the pandemic – which jumps to 63 per cent and 61 per cent amongst customers aged 16-24 and 25-34 respectively.

When it comes to effective advertising, almost half (47 per cent) of customers now gain awareness of retail brands through digital channels, despite e-commerce accounting for only 20 per cent of overall purchases.

This reliance on online retail continues to the point of purchase, as the report identifies how digitisation has changed the purpose of physical stores, which are fast becoming an important marketing tool.

A quarter (24 per cent) of customers say they have purchased an item online whilst in-store, and over a third (36.5 per cent) have used their mobile to read reviews or price-check online while shopping in a physical store.

Jo Bertram, managing director at O2 Business, said: “As a technology partner to the industry, we wanted to find out what the tectonic shifts have been in how people have engaged with each other over the last decade.

"In particular, the way in which smartphones, tablets and even watches have impacted us all as customers, retailers and business leaders. The effect the lockdown has had to the way we buy has been significant, but they’ve accentuated these shifts more than redirected them.”

The report also found that customers are becoming even more connected, with 62 per cent saying that being connected is “very” or “extremely” important to their lifestyle, with the report concluding that it is "clear that physical and digital realms must merge".

Richard Lim, chief executive of Retail Economics, said: “The impact of Covid-19 has re-wired the customer journey, leaving many retailers scrambling to assess the impact as they attempt to realign their proposition to meet a new normal.

“We’ve already witnessed a significant shift towards online and it’s inevitable that some of these behaviours will become permanent, with digital playing a much more important role."

He added: “The new normal will involve a step-change in the integration of digital technologies and retailers are assessing what this means for the number of stores, where they should invest and the potential partnerships that could be formed.”

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