01 October 2020, 10:17 AM
  • With the concerns surrounding another lockdown causing fluctuations in consumer behaviour once again, we examine how independent retailers can prepare themselves online
How COVID-19’s potential second wave is affecting online shopping

According to new research by Ubamarket, an app that provides retailers with their own ‘scan and go’ white label, rising concerns surrounding a potential second wave of Coronavirus is leading to yet another surge of panic buying across the country. If this trend is anything like the previous one, we can look forward to another dramatic increase in demand for essential products, particularly via online deliveries.

We’re all familiar with how the public turned to online shopping over the past few months, leading to a 33% increase in online grocery sales, and Ubamarket’s research shows this percentage is likely to continue growing, with 43% of Brits (over 20 million) admitting to wanting as little human interaction as possible while shopping and 34% saying that self-checkouts cause significant anxiety due to hygiene concerns and proximity to other shoppers. In fact, four in ten Brits no longer use cash when shopping or when in bars or restaurants due to concerns around the transfer of germs.

“The surge in online demand could last for as long as the lockdown itself, but it will likely also influence what was already a perpetual increase in internet shopping volume over a much longer time,” corroborates Mathew March-Smith, co-founder of indie cheese retailer Pong. “For many grocery buyers, this period might even represent the first time they have ever ordered on the internet and as long as they have a positive experience they will likely be back for more, trying new companies and new products as their online skills and confidence improves.”

Likewise, the data collected through online shopping will prove useful in answering spikes in demand. “The implementation of retail technology is one way that Britain’s retailers could safeguard themselves against fluctuating demand and irregular consumer behaviour,” says Will Broome, CEO of Ubamarket. “With this, supermarkets and stores can access far more in-depth and accurate consumer data, helping them to assess their behaviour, manage stock more efficiently and effectively, whilst being able to effectively communicate directly to the consumer base.”

However, according to Ubamarket’s study, despite 38% of Brits using online shopping more since lockdown, they’ve admitted to finding it inefficient due to insufficient delivery slots and replacement items. A corroborating study by eCommerce platform Kooomo states that the Big Four supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons) are all having to further enhance their customer experience and delivery capabilities to fix this issue and prevent online shopping giant Amazon from taking even further market share.

“The battle for eGrocery supremacy will be determined by two simple words: customer experience”, explains Ciaran Bollard, CEO of Kooomo. “The majority of consumers simply desire the most convenient and safest way to do their weekly shop. Technology implementation will be a clear decider on who will win and Amazon is very good at enticing people into their ever-expanding ecosystem thanks to its sophisticated analysis of customer data.”

So what can independent retailers do to keep up?
“Supermarkets and local grocers will be able to compete with Amazon if they can remain competitive on price and ensure fast delivery alongside a great online customer experience,” says Ciaran. “Success can be achieved through the implementation of eCommerce platforms and innovations such as Pick and Pack apps to meet increased demand. Although they may not have the huge customer base of Amazon, smaller eGrocery retailers may be able to provide a more localised eGrocery experience for customers within their community.”

It is, therefore, more important than ever for SMEs to focus on building and optimising their online presence in order to capitalise on these consumer trends, as well as persuade shoppers to keep coming back.

Check out our advice on how to adapt your retail strategy to suit new consumer trends, including optimising your website and taking advantage of the changing mindsets. “Website design is very important,” states Emily-Jane Smith Cummins, brand communications manager at Wensleydale Creamery. “It has to be attractive and user friendly, and you need to make it easy for people to check out swiftly if they see a product they like – don’t put any roadblocks in place, because the attention span of someone online is very short. Content needs to be engaging, the more time a customer spends on-site, the more likely they are to buy.”

Likewise, have a read about how to translate the in-store experience online – as Nick McCulloch, CEO of Provenance Hub says, a static website will quickly bore visitors. “It needs to continue to tell a story; there is nothing worse from a consumer perspective than arriving on a site that’s exactly the same as last month, that’s not highlighting anything, not featuring anything. Shelves in your shop cost you money, products that sit there unsold cost you money, so there need to be calls to action in place for people to buy something or you’re wasting your time.”

For even more 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 The Ultimate Guide to Online Retail here. Speciality Food partnered with a number of leading experts in online retail to produce it back in April, but it’s just as relevant now as it was then. As Mathew comments, “Selling on the internet is not just about going for the highest possible number; the real art to creating and growing a successful online business is managing the volumes of sales and the customers’ fulfilment at the same time.”

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