18 September 2020, 08:00 AM
  • Society may slowly and steadily be returning to normal, but some lockdown-inspired consumer habits are here to stay
How to adapt your retail strategy to suit new consumer trends

We’re all familiar with how the closure of non-essential shops during the initial lockdown period led to a dramatic shift in Brit’s online shopping habits, resulting in e-commerce accounting for 33.4% of all GB retail sales in May. Now, new research conducted by Startle Music confirms that this behaviour is unlikely to change anytime soon, with half of regular consumers admitting that they do not intend to visit shops, restaurants and pubs with the same frequency as pre-lockdown. As a result, many parts of the retail and hospitality sectors will need to adapt their long-term strategy as these shifts in lockdown consumer behaviour become permanent, says John Farnsworth, partner at Smith Cooper, retail and hospitality expert.

Keep up with the move to online
Since online spending is unlikely to decline much over the coming months – probably due to a combination of convenience, concerns around the safety of physical stores and continued working from home – it’s more important than ever for businesses to focus on building their online presence in order to offset the continuing effects of store closures and decline in shop visits post-lockdown.

Speciality Food partnered with a number of leading experts in online retail back in April to produce The Ultimate Guide to Online Retail and it’s just as relevant now as it was then. Download the free guide here for access to exclusive advice on how to optimise your website to increase sales, take advantage of social media and connect with customers online.

Take advantage of the changing mindsets to spending
Another important retail trend to note is the move away from town centres to local high streets. Whereas shopping locally was initially enforced due to the restrictions of lockdown, 59% of UK consumers have made a conscious effort to shop more locally in recent months, demonstrating a higher regard towards small and local businesses. One-fifth of consumers have even stopped purchasing from a big brand due to its response to COVID-19.

It’s apparent then that a more mindful approach to spending, coupled with a demand for authentic brands, is on the rise. Businesses will need to carefully consider how they can adapt to meet these market changes, suggests John, such as reviewing their supply chains and their ‘out-of-city’ presence. SAC Consulting likewise encourages businesses to focus on emphasising their community role, place in the locality, local story or link to local traditions, heritage celebrations, landmarks and activities.

Create new experiences
Likewise, according to Startle Music’s research, almost 51% of shoppers find the experience of shopping less enjoyable than pre-COVID-19. Social distancing requirements, queuing and the inability to browse all impact on the enjoyability of the retail experience and affect whether customers want to return or not.

Therefore, businesses need to create in-store experiences with added value in order to encourage customers back to their physical stores and cash in on a valuable aspect of retail: impulse purchases. This can be done in a number of ways, such as adapting a click-and-collect style approach or introducing bookable virtual personal-shopping sessions.

It’s clear that by keeping an eye on changing consumer demands, independent retailers can adapt to these more permanent shifts and achieve business growth and recovery in the remainder of the year. For more tips on adapting your retail strategy and updates on consumer trends, subscribe to our newsletter here.

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