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Lockdown and the effect on shopper behaviours in the UK

We can all agree that the national lockdown we are currently experiencing is impacting negatively on most areas of our lives.

holiday season lockdown 2.0

However, in addition to the limits on our day-to-day lives which we must now endure, it’s fair to say that the uncertainty around the upcoming holiday period is adding to our shared anxiety. Many industries have been adversely affected by the reinstated safety measures. Furthermore, with holiday shopping at the forefront of many people’s minds at this time of year, savvy e-commerce retailers are set for a shopping season like no other.

A recent survey by McKinsey reveals insights into the psyche of the 2020 holiday shopper. We have outlined the results below to highlight the top trends that retailers should consider when implementing their customer acquisition strategies this winter.

More online shoppers than ever before

The first lockdown in spring saw over 60% of consumers trying new ways of shopping. That is, from mobile apps, or Buy Online Pickup In Store (BOPIS). This new-found confidence in online shopping means that there are more experienced e-commerce shoppers out there than ever before. These relative newbies to online shopping are overcoming any technology and trust barriers, and ready to buy online this winter.

Of the cohort of experienced online shoppers, 37% have pledged to spend more online than in shops this year. However, today’s number is likely much higher as this survey was conducted in September, before news of the second lockdown.

Holiday shopping is starting earlier this year

Following the stock shortages, delivery delays and endless queues for BOPIS collections during the first lockdown period, today’s shoppers are starting early to avoid disappointment.

Of course, combine the usual seasonal strain on supply chains and delivery providers with the lockdown-related increase in demand, and it’s conceivable that the shopping rush will also end earlier this year. Indeed, some retailers are already advertising order cut-off dates of December 15th to guarantee delivery in time for Christmas. So, we can reasonably expect to see this holiday boom ending slightly earlier than in previous years.

Deals are front of mind

44% of consumers report a reduction in income due to Covid. However, 82% said they intend to spend the same or more on holiday shopping events such as Black Friday or Pre-Christmas Sales this year. It’s therefore critical that online retailers participate in these events, but with due sensitivity to the reasons why many consumers are searching for deals this year.

Brand loyalty is at risk

Since the first lockdown, 60% of global consumers have tried new brands, with Gen Z and higher earners leading the way. Brand loyalty has also ebbed away over the last few months. Thus, the study shows that a mere 12% intend to continue to shop with the same retailers as previous years.

Whilst this poses a risk to retailers who rely on loyal followers, it also presents a chance to find new customers who are less smitten with a specific brand. They may be looking for a less expensive alternative. Likewise, they do not want to wait for a lengthy delivery time or for stock to become available. Ensuring stock levels are high and shipping costs and lead times are low will enable retailers to compete for new customers.

Health and safety is the top priority

The constraints we all face as part of Lockdown are based in the preservation of public health and safety. While essential retailers are able to remain open, they must adhere to strict safety measures. This markedly shrinks the pleasure of the shopping experience.

In September, 45% of shoppers reported an intention to browse in-store for holiday shopping. This has dropped to just 12%, and is limited further by the temporary closure of non-essential businesses. Retailers therefore need to find new ways of translating that coveted, lived experience into a digital version in order to attract those who prefer an in-person shopping experience.

Keys to Holiday Shopping success during Lockdown

While the national sentiment is somewhat low, the longing for normality and the usual feel-good factor that the holidays bring means that many will see holiday shopping as a partial return to normal life. Indeed, it’s something to look forward to in what has been a miserable year for many.

In order to make the most of the current situation, retailers need to provide a better shopping experience. That is, they are devoid of the anxiety-inducing pain points that shopping in the Covid era has created. Taking the time to understand how the retail landscape has changed and using that to create an experience that all customers will enjoy will be the key to e-commerce success in 2020 and beyond.


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