Retail surveys and studies that arrived last week included Ernst & Young identifying five new consumer segments emerging from the coronavirus pandemic. Others explored back-to-school spending, in-store shopping comfort, holiday spending online, and returning merchandise.

›Ernst & Young Identifies Consumer Segments To Shape Demand Beyond The Pandemic
EY Future Consumer Index, Ernst & Young’s latest monthly survey which tracks the sentiment and behavior of 14,074 consumers across 18 countries, found that craving stability is a rising trend with 40 percent of consumers keen to “get to normal” – doubling over last month’s survey results (20 percent); however, half (50 percent) of consumers still expect their lives to change significantly in the long-term, while 53 percent said the pandemic experience has led to a re-evaluation of their values and how they look at life.

Accordingly, five new consumer segments have emerged as a result of these changing sentiments, and they are:

  • Affordability first: Respondents want to live within their means and represent 30 percent of their cohorts. They are the most pessimistic segment in their perception of how long it will take for their country to recover and for financial stability to return. More than half of respondents identified price as increasing in importance.
  • Health first: Respondents (26 percent) prefer brands and products that they trust to be safe and minimize unnecessary risk. Fifty-seven percent said they pay more attention to how healthy the products are that they buy.
  • Planet first: Most likely to change the products they buy, respondents (17 percent) would pay a premium for high-quality, ethically sourced and sustainable goods. Fifty-nine percent intend to shop more locally in the long term.
  • Society first: Respondents in this segment (16 percent) believe that everyone should work together for the greater good, with 73 percent prepared to change their behavior to benefit society. These respondents prefer to buy from organizations that are transparent about what they do.
  • Experience first: Intent on living for the moment, these consumers (11 percent) are the least anxious about their health and finances. Two-thirds feel comfortable returning to a mall just days or weeks after the pandemic has stabilized in their country.

Kristina Rogers, EY global consumer leader, said, “Organizations will need to work out how to serve a more value-conscious, health-conscious consumer, but also a consumer who demands purposeful brands that reflect their environmental and social values.”

›COVID-19 Charts Uncertain Course for Back-to-School, Back-to-College Season
Despite financial concerns, back-to-school spending will likely remain flat, reaching a collective $28.1 billion for K-12 students, or approximately $529 per student, back-to-college shoppers will spend $25.4 billion, or approximately $1,345 per student, according to Deloitte’s annual Back-to-School and Back-to-College survey.

Spending is continuing to shift toward digital products over more traditional items, most notably with a 28 percent increase in technology spending for K-12 students, now an $8.6 billion market. The consultancy said the growth reflects, in part, parents anticipating the possibility of remote learning and the need to supplement students’ education.

Due to uncertainty spurred by COVID-19, 66 percent of K-12 parents and 62 percent of college-age parents are anxious about sending their kids back to school. Only 56 percent of parents with students in K-12 and 52 percent of parents with students in college were satisfied with the learning resources provided during the initial outbreak.

Parents of both college-age and K-12 students expect to spend more of their budget online this year as they seek to find contactless formats such as BOPIS (buy online, pick-up in-store).

“The back-to-school shopping season traditionally represents a clear transition to fall, but families this year face a period of uncertainty,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution lead. “With school formats still up in the air for many, the spend is shifting to tech as parents anticipate the possibility of remote learning and the need to supplement students’ education. Retailers that can stay nimble and react quickly to changing needs for education amid the challenges of COVID-19 will likely be the ones that will have an opportunity to appeal shoppers this season.”

›Safety And Hygiene Top Of Mind For Back-To-School
Coresight Research’s weekly U.S. consumer survey, taken on July 8, finds a little over 4-in-10 of back-to-school shoppers plan to buy face masks and/or other hygiene products/personal protective equipment for their child or children.

Two-fifths of all respondents said that they would need to buy back-to-school products this year. Among those shoppers, more than one-third expected to spend less; however, the proportion did not have a clear lead over those who expected to spend the same, or more, despite the economic downturn.

The responses also suggested a shift of back-to-school dollars from products for in-school learning to products for at-home learning. Over one-quarter of back-to-school shoppers expect to spend more on at-home learning products than last year, likely benefiting categories such as electronics and home products; while 1-in-5 expected to spend less on in-school products, which Deloitte expects to hit apparel, including sportswear.

›Nervousness, Stress The Top Emotions Felt By In-Store Shoppers
A survey from Kelton Global revealed that in the wake of COVID-19, Americans report feeling nervous and stressed more than any other emotions while shopping. The anxiety stems from a few key factors including concerns about being in close proximity with strangers, navigating new requirements and procedures and the potential for conflict among already-tense shoppers.

The data also shows the various precautions shoppers take to protect themselves:

  • 81 percent of in-store shoppers report searching for additional information to assess whether it’s safe to visit a store;
  • 64 percent try to touch as few items as possible when shopping; and
  • 59 percent prefer self-service over employee interaction.

“Before COVID-19, shoppers experienced a rich tapestry of trip types and emotions,” said Kelton Partner Amy Rogoff Dunn. “Now, all of these occasions and emotions have coalesced into one type of shopping — a kind of anxiety-filled mission. People are going as infrequently as possible.”

›Online Expected To Drive Holiday Sales
A survey of more than 1,000 consumers from Radial showed that despite the impact of COVID-19, shoppers do not plan to significantly change their holiday spend compared to 2019; however, the data revealed a stronger preference for online shopping with 66 percent of shoppers anticipating they would increase their online purchases during the 2020 holiday season.

Specifically, the survey found:

  • 60 percent of consumers plan to shop less in-store this season due to the fear of COVID-19 exposure. While there is still an appetite for in-store shopping, safety concerns and deeper consumer familiarity with online ordering indicated that e-commerce will see higher activity than in previous years;
  • Despite the impact of the pandemic on delivery times, 41 percent of shoppers said they don’t plan to shop earlier for the holiday. Thirty-nine percent plan to start their holiday shopping in October and into early November, and 30 percent plan to start on Black Friday/Cyber Monday;
  • The majority of consumers surveyed plan to spend the same as last year on holiday gifts; and
  • 63 percent said they are slightly, or much more likely, to purchase from a retailer they know followed COVID-19 safety precautions in-store.

“The 2020 holiday season will reward omnichannel retailers,” said Tim Hinckley, chief commercial officer for Radial. “Instead of the recurring and seasonal demand cycles retailers are used to, in the wake of COVID-19, brands must contend with consistently high demand for e-commerce year-round. This year, peak season levels essentially started in March.”

›Survey Finds Retailers Need To Improve Returns Process
A survey of almost 1,400 U.S. consumers conducted in May from Doodle found almost three-quarters of respondents (74 percent) felt retailers’ return experiences needed to be better. The survey found consumers weigh returns as equally significant as delivery and payment with regards to their overall e-commerce experience, even slightly more so. Eighty-four percent said the returns experience is important with regards to their opinion of a retailer, with 83 percent who said the same for delivery and payment, respectively.

When asked what they would prefer from retailers when returning an item, the survey found:

  • 68 percent of respondents said free returns;
  • 45 percent said convenient locations to return an item(s) to;
  • 44 percent said reusable/resealable packaging that could also be used for returns;
  • 41 percent said communications and visibility (tracking the parcel, confirmation of receipt, refund information, etc.);
  • 38 percent said being refunded once the item had shipped; and
  • 33 percent said no need to print a return label.

“This insight is now more critical than ever, as COVID-19 has generated a significant bump in e-commerce sales, with e-commerce returns only expecting to increase as well as a result,” said Dan Nevin, Doddle’s North America CEO.

Illustration courtesy MIT