It is no surprise that online shopping has surged ever since restrictions were imposed to combat the coronavirus pandemic, but exactly how has consumer behaviour changed since last year and what can retailers and marketers do to overcome the challenges? A recent study from Think With Google sought to provide the answers.

Google commissioned research firm Kantar in May this year to examine changes in shopping behaviour in the UK, based on a sample of 1,500 consumers per market.

The Smart Shopper study found that the fashion, home and consumer electronics categories witnessed the biggest shifts to online purchases, as UK consumers had to restrict their movements to essential journeys only.

Some 86% of fashion purchases were conducted online in the period under review, with high rates also recorded for the home/garden category (67%) and consumer electronics (73%). 

Some of these purchases may have been the result of pent-up demand. WARC research finds that one in three UK consumers cut their spending on electronics, home products, and apparel & cosmetics by at least half during the lockdown period.

Google also found that, contrary to the trend, beauty products were still bought mainly in physical shops – most likely because grocery stores and pharmacies were exempt from lockdown restrictions.

The research, which highlighted eight key findings, also revealed that UK shoppers have become more ‘channel-agnostic’, leading Google to emphasise the importance of developing omnichannel strategies and being present at all touchpoints of the consumer journey.

A third finding demonstrated that consumers valued convenience above all else, both for online purchases (86%) and those made in a store (69%), while home delivery and availability were also important.

Google advised retailers to display deliver options and availability in their marketing, and to provide an online chat option to deal with any customer queries.

Elsewhere, the research found that nearly half (48%) of UK consumers had to deal with an issue in 2020, although just a third (33%) of shoppers faced a ‘pain point’ when shopping online, compared to 41% in 2019. These included having to register or login to a site before making a purchase.

Online research also increased in 2020, with 84% of shoppers using online sources to support their purchases, compared with 76% in 2019. According to Google, 80% of consumers aged 45 to 54 conducted online research, compared with 68% in 2019, while a similar proportion (81%) aged 55+ also went online to research items.

And when it came to trying out new brands, the research found that availability (44%), price (43%), convenience (36%) and speed (33%) were the strongest motivators.

The Google/Kantar study also confirmed that UK shoppers valued a brand’s stance on sustainability or social issues, with almost two-thirds (62%) of respondents saying they cared about at least one measure of sustainability, such as fair working conditions or degradable packaging.

Finally, the research revealed a significant increase in the number of consumers who now use shopping apps, up from a quarter (24%) in 2019 to more than a third (37%) in 2020.

Sourced from Think With Google, Kantar