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We’re all familiar by now with how the ongoing pandemic is having a profound impact on consumer behaviour, leading to a decline in discretionary spending and a dramatic increase in demand for essential products, particularly via online deliveries. This led to e-commerce accounting for 33.4% of all UK retail sales in May, and the worry over a second wave of COVID-19 is only compounding these behaviours.
In light of this, global eCommerce platform Kooomo has published its recommendations on how independent retailers can adapt their retail strategy, by investing more heavily in their digital presence and thinking innovatively about how they can enhance their services if they wish to remain competitive beyond COVID-19.
Kooomo points outs that consumer behaviours are unlikely to return to how things were at the start of the year, with a recent survey by Statista finding that 46% of Britons are likely to continue avoiding the high-street even if restrictions ease, and corroborating research by McKinsey highlighting that consumer sentiment and behaviour reflect the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.
“The bottom line here is that consumers are increasingly conscious and priorities have changed,” explains Ciaran Bollard, CEO at Kooomo. “Prior to the pandemic, on average shoppers’ baskets tended to be larger and their activity more frequent. However, amid the vast economic uncertainty that comes hand-in-hand with COVID-19, people have had to think more carefully about their spending. What does and doesn’t matter to UK consumers has taken a massive U-turn.”
With this in mind, Ciaran outlines four of the key ways retailers can adapt their strategy to keep up with the changes to consumer behaviour:
1. Optimise your online presence
“In this new era centred on safety, online shopping has witnessed an immense surge and is set to near the £175 billion barrier by the end of the year. This change in behaviour comes as no surprise and is undoubtedly here to stay as the tightening of lockdown measures comes back into play. It is the retailers who recognise this fact and optimise their online services that will be better placed to remain competitive beyond COVID-19.”
2. Provide secure payment methods and diverse options
“Leading on from the greater emphasis on safety, our clients have also found that consumers are turning their attention towards secure payment methods and diverse options more than ever before. With cyber-attacks becoming increasingly prominent over the past few months, retailers must ensure they are creating a check-out process that is safe and frictionless for all users. One way in which our developers are facilitating this is by enabling the Kooomo platform to support multiple languages, currencies and VAT rates.”
3. Don’t rely on brand loyalty
“Consumers have less patience when it comes to online shopping. For example, a recent UK consumer preferences report – conducted between June and July – found that ease of use when accessing an eCommerce site was a deciding factor for 56% of consumers. Brand loyalty has also been jeopardised, with consumers simply switching to competitors if the items they desire are out of stock or cannot be delivered quickly. Ultimately, consumers look to sites that offer a fast, secure and reliable experience, meaning retailers must get the basics covered if they want to attract and retain customers.”
4. Meet the consumers’ higher expectations
“Only once their site is safe and reliable should retailers look to creating a flawless online experience for users. With everyone and everything moving online nowadays, consumers have heightened expectations when it comes to eCommerce and tend to opt for brands that offer the ultimate customer experience. Pivotal elements when building this include investing in a seamless omnichannel experience, creating an AI chatbot and focusing on hyper-personalisation. It is retailers who embrace consumers’ new expectations and invest in their eCommerce infrastructure that will spearhead this sector’s recovery.
“COVID-19 has undoubtedly brought about profound, uncontrollable changes to our world and consumer behaviour is no exception to this rule,” concludes Ciaran. “Yet, retailers should not simply back away from the fight. With Black Friday and the build-up to Christmas just around the corner, retailers must ensure they are optimising their online presence and catering to consumers’ needs. Ultimately, it is the retailers who respond quickly to changing demands who will remain competitive in the months to come.”
For exclusive advice on how to optimise your website to increase sales, take advantage of social media and connect with customers online, have a look at our guide to adapt your retail strategy to suit new consumer trends, our investigation on how COVID-19’s potential second wave is affecting online shopping, as well as The Ultimate Guide to Online Retail.