Retail surveys and studies that arrived last week included McKinsey & Co. identifying five shifts in consumer behavior since the onset of COVID-19. Others explored how the pandemic has affected online spending, online returns, holiday purchasing intent, brand discovery for Millenials, and more.

Starting with McKinsey & Co.’s June 2020 survey found here, are five ways the global pandemic has changed consumer behavior include:

  1. A shift to value and essentials: More than 50 percent of Americans believe it will take longer than 6 months for the economy to recover and are adjusting how and where they spend accordingly (and more conservatively).
  2. Flight to digital and omnichannel: Most categories have seen a 15-to-30 percent growth in consumers shopping online, and consumers said they intend to stay there even if when the pandemic is over.
  3. Shock to loyalty: 75 percent of respondents have tried different stores, websites or brands during the pandemic, and more than 70 percent of those respondents said they expect to integrate these places to shop (and brands) in their post-COVID-19 lives.
  4. Health and “caring” economy: Respondents are looking for companies to keep their employees safe and to ensure they do right by their employees meaning respondents are more likely to do right by them.
  5. Homebody economy: Many respondents have found at-home solutions to out-of-home activities, and more than 50 percent of respondents intend to continue some of those habits post-pandemic.

›Earlier-Than-Normal Holiday Shopping Expected
A survey of 500 U.S. consumers in early June from Voxware, a provider of cloud-based voice and analytic supply chain solutions, found 51 percent of respondents expect to begin holiday shopping earlier than normal this year. Other findings include:

  • 57 percent of respondents plan to have more gifts shipped directly to recipients than last year;
  • 76 percent of respondents intend to purchase more than half of their gifts online; and
  • 62 percent of respondents plan to purchase more stocking stuffers and last-minute gifts online.

“Those who oversee distribution operations are going to have to think differently this year to meet consumer expectations,” said Keith Phillips, president and CEO of Voxware. “Automation will be critical, and companies that have not taken the initiative to optimize their distribution centers will struggle to deliver a flawless customer experience.”

›Online Apparel Purchases Still Strong Despite Store Re-Openings
Coresight Research
’s weekly US consumer survey, taken on July 1, continues to see an upward trend in online apparel shopping even though retail stores have reopened. The proportion of respondents buying more apparel online surged roughly 20 percent in three months from 9 percent on April 1 to 29 percent on July 1. In addition, online shopping for apparel remains the number-one spending-related activity that consumers reported to have performed in the past two weeks.

The findings also show that 3-in-10 respondents have switched some, or all, of their spending on clothing and footwear to an online-only retailer. As well, 1-in7 respondents have started using in-store pickup services, and 1-in-6 have been using curbside pickup for their online orders.

One-third of all respondents said that lockdown, or store closures, prevented them from returning merchandise. Among those respondents, Coresight said it saw more respondents yet to return merchandise during the lockdown period than expected to return merchandise purchase in-store than by mail.

›Most Americans Not Comfortable Returning To Stores
A survey of 1,200 U.S. consumers from SafetyCulture, the workplace platform, found 71 percent of respondents would not feel “very comfortable” shopping in a physical retail store over the next three months. Other findings:

  • More than half of respondents (52 percent) would feel “very uncomfortable” (28 percent) or “somewhat uncomfortable” (24 percent) dining in a restaurant/bar over the next 3 months;
  • More than half of respondents (54 percent) would feel “very uncomfortable” (25 percent) or “somewhat uncomfortable” (29 percent) staying at a hotel over the next three months; and
  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) would not be “very comfortable” returning to the workplace over the next three months.

More than half (53 percent) said that a publicly displayed list of daily safety procedures being undertaken by a business for public areas, with completion status publicly shown, would increase trust and confidence in that business (i.e., rated either 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-5, with 5 as increasing trust and confidence the most). More than half of consumers (57 percent) said that businesses making public a real-time list of cleaning and disinfecting activities completed hourly throughout the day would increase trust and confidence in that business, with the same scale as noted above.

Commented Bob Butler, general manager, North America, with SafetyCulture. “There is a clear opportunity here for businesses to take specific actions that will increase employee and consumer confidence, and we’re here to support them as they do so. We’re pleased to be able to help companies get access to global expertise, and thousands of free checklists and COVID-19 guidelines.”

›Fifty-Six Percent Of Millennials Have Tried At Least One New Brand During The Pandemic
A U.S. consumer survey conducted by PFSweb found sizable gaps in how U.S. consumers across generations are shopping various online retail categories in response to the pandemic. Key findings from the study include:

  • 75 percent of Millennials have bought goods online during the pandemic that they had not considered prior;
  • 56 percent of Millennials have tried at least one new brand during the pandemic;
  • Men are more likely to buy more online products and shop with new online retailers and websites during the COVID-19 pandemic than women;
  • Over half of consumers have made one or more online purchases in the Groceries & Household (56 percent) and Health & Beauty (51 percent) categories during the pandemic;
  • Less than 50 percent of those consumers have made one or more online purchases across the rest of the categories surveyed including apparel & footwear, office supplies, home & garden, jewelry, and consumer electronics; and
  • 46 percent of Millennials and GenZ shoppers have more online grocery purchases than usual amid the pandemic compared to just 28 percent of baby boomers and the silent generation.

Commented Zach Thomann, EVP and PFS general manager. “It is critical that online brands and retailers analyze their customer demographics and create differentiated brand experiences that appeal to them during these uncertain times. Not all online retail categories are experiencing the same amount of growth so differentiation is key to winning customers of all generations.”

›Survey Uncovers Consumer Frustration With Complicated Returns Processes Amid COVID-19
A survey from Inmar Intelligence finds 88 percent of U.S. consumers plan to continue to shop online to avoid crowds, yet 40 percent have held back on purchasing online due to complicated return processes. Other findings from the survey include:

  • 42 percent shared that they now mail their returns due to COVID-19;
  • 89 percent indicated that they want to receive return status updates via e-mail and/or text; and
  • 56 percent said it’s easy to return online purchases, yet 58 percent prefer to return purchases in a store.

“The dramatic increase in online shopping means retailers will have to assess their preparedness to handle higher return volume. Return rates run much higher in e-commerce, and the additional volume will have a significant impact,” said Ken Bays, vice president, product development at Inmar Intelligence.

›73 percent Of Retailers Believe Artificial Intelligence (AI) Can Boost Demand Forecasting
A survey of retailers from LLamasoft, a provider of AI-powered supply chain analytics software, found 73 percent of respondents believe AI and machine learning can add significant value to their demand forecasting processes, and over half said it would improve eight other critical supply chain capabilities.

The research also found that while 56 percent of overperforming retailers, also known as ‘retail winners’, use technology to model contingency plans for severe supply chain interruptions, just 31 percent of retailers who are not overperforming do the same. Overall, 56 percent of retailers surveyed are struggling to respond to rapid shifts, and the lack of flexibility has cost them during the disruptions, such as COVID-19, with many seeing a huge drop in revenue as a result.

In addition, 73 percent of ‘retail winners’ have the foresight and ability to monitor capacity which allows them to prepare for sudden shifts in demand and supply compared to 35 percent of ‘other’ or ‘under-performing’ retailers.

“In the shadow of COVID-19, without a vaccine or successful treatment, shoppers will tire of hunkering down at home and start to visit stores as they re-open across the globe in phases, but in far different ways (and in far fewer numbers) than pre-outbreak. So, retailers are in a ‘new never normal’ environment,” said Brian Kilcourse, managing partner, RSR. “With such unpredictability, the ability to be agile and model potential outcomes becomes even more important.”

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