The pandemic has significantly changed shopper behaviour – from what they buy, to how they buy, and even how much they spend.
Not only that, but the pandemic has also changed consumers’ expectations of retailers, with customers increasingly seeking convenience, speed, and transparency from the brands they shop with.
In order to help navigate these trends and connect with the post-pandemic shopper, ShipStation, in conjunction with Inside Retail, have released a new research report, Making The Difference: Leveraging four key shopper behaviours to increase sales and satisfaction.
The report, which has sought input from a wide range of Australian retailers, has identified four aspects of consumer behaviour that are anticipated to provide the best opportunities for retailers in 2022.
The four elements highlighted in the report include peak season, hybrid shopping, returns, and sustainability.
According to ShipStation and Inside Retail, retailers who have a deep understanding of shoppers in these core areas will be able to most effectively leverage Covid-19 driven changes, while also increasing sales, customer satisfaction, and their competitive differentiation.
Here’s a quick look at a few of the report’s key findings.
Start pre-peak planning…now!
Australians love peak sales seasons. This is evident from the growing number of sales events held each year (think Click Frenzy, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday to name a few!) In fact, Aussies now enjoy 10 different sales periods or sales events annually.
David Boyer, Country Manager ANZ, ShipStation, anticipates Christmas 2021 to be a record-breaker for the ages and advises retailers to start planning for the holiday rush now.
“Businesses will be competing against, not just each other, but also a new world of newfound consumer expectations post-pandemic,” explains Boyer. “This is why retailers need to now start thinking about ‘pre-peak’ and implementing the right business and technology partners earlier than ever.”
According to the report’s findings, 20 per cent of consumers plan to start their Christmas shopping even earlier this year.
In addition, 56 per cent who are planning to shop earlier than usual for Christmas 2021 will do so because they believe stock levels will be lower than usual, while 47 per cent are concerned delivery times will be longer than usual.
With sales event growth set to increase long term, retailers need to effectively manage customer expectations around stock levels, shipping visibility, and delivery timelines to ensure peak season success.
Consumers are ‘hybrid’ shoppers – do you have all bases covered?
The term “omnichannel” has been used for some time to describe retailers who sell both online and via physical stores.
However, shoppers are not “omnichannel”, they are consumers who use a hybrid of channels to best meet their needs.
According to the report, the experience of Covid-19 lockdowns has led to a range of changes in general shopping behaviour. Some of these have bounced back with the easing of travel restrictions, while other behaviours have undergone a permanent change.
For example, over the initial period of restrictions certain forms of online shopping, like buy online and deliver to home, rose significantly more than others, which suggests that many shoppers have tried it and want to continue using it long term.
There have also been increases in the proportion of shoppers who feel that online shopping gives them access to a greater range of products, and bigger discounts and/or better prices.
However, pureplay retailers still have some way to go, with 41 per cent of shoppers saying that they receive a better online experience from omnichannel retailers than they do from pureplay retailers.
Irrespective of changing channel preferences, every omnichannel retailer must realise that it is quite important to 53 per cent of shoppers, and very important to 36 per cent of shoppers, that they have a consistent experience irrespective of the channel they are using.
Returns can make or break the customer experience
Returns policies are now a shopper decision criterion and need to be treated accordingly.
From the customers’ perspective, the two most important elements to a positive returns experience relate to cost, and how easy it is for them.
In fact, 72 per cent of consumers say a returns policy directly impacts their final purchasing decision.
Ecommerce retailers should carefully manage customer expectations around returns and implement a clear returns policy that they can fall back on when needed.
In addition, improving the packaging and ease of paperwork associated with online returns can offer significant quick wins in improving customer satisfaction.
Sustainability matters more than ever
Retailers need to address customers’ growing expectations around sustainability.
Increasingly, retailers have to deal with sustainability on two fronts that impact customer perceptions: their own actions and the actions of the manufacturers of the products they sell.
More than 62 per cent of younger consumers prefer to shop for sustainable and green products and 82 per cent of consumers as a whole said they would like their parcel packaging material to be recyclable.
According to the report, significant proportions of Aussies believe that both brands and retailers have a role in supporting recycling. In fact, 20 per cent of shoppers will choose one online retailer over another because they are taking action to reduce their impact on the environment.
Additionally, 64 per cent believe it is the responsibility of the brand/producer of the product to provide packaging recycling information, while 31 per cent feel the store that sells the products should provide the information.
Although sustainability is everyone’s responsibility, it’s clear that businesses that address their customers’ concerns now will thrive long term.
Moreover, retailers who leverage all four of these opportunities in 2022 and beyond will lead their categories and build ongoing customer loyalty. To find out more, download Making the Difference: Leveraging four key shopper behaviours to increase sales and satisfaction here.