Has COVID Shifted Ecommerce Consumer Behaviour For Good, Globally?

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Consumer behaviour has changed dramatically — and likely permanently — as a result of the global pandemic. Since March 2020, ShipStation has kept a pulse on the progression of COVID-19 and how it transformed ecommerce long-term. The results? Consumers globally are spending more, they’re supporting small businesses, they’re demanding more visibility into shipping and delivery, want free and easy returns, and are, of course, looking for more and more delivery options.

One of the key takeaways is that consumers are more keen than ever to support SME businesses and that’s something many will be grateful for. We’ve heard many stories over the past 15 months where SMEs businesses have skyrocketed as people looked for ways to ease their lockdown lives, don’t undervalue this new consumer behaviour and step up your re-marketing efforts to engage customers for the long haul, emphasising your SME roots and that you are a local business.

Understanding how consumer trends have shifted can help merchants and businesses adapt their strategy for success. So, let’s dig into some of the key insights from the recent research study.

Retail Spend is Strong

First, consumer retail spending was — and remains — strong. As of April 2021, and across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia, an average of 39% of consumers say they spent more on retail in 2020 than in 2019. More than half of consumers in these regions feel more financially stable than they did a year ago, and an average of 37% of these consumers said they expect to spend more in 2021 than they did in 2020. As digital adoption continues, it’s easier than ever for them to click “buy.” In fact, the majority of consumers across these regions (over 55%) still say that they’ll prefer to shop online instead of in stores, even post-pandemic. Over three-fourths of consumers in all regions even noted that quarantine pushed them to buy items online that they’d typically only purchase in-store before the pandemic. It’s clear that retailers need to continue investing in their ecommerce experience, even now that brick-and-mortar is back in full swing.

Small Business Spending is Trending Upward

The pandemic hit small businesses hard. But the majority of consumers, globally, stepped up to shop small in an effort to bolster their local economies and the small business dreams of many. In all four regions, over 60% of consumers noted that they’d be willing to pay slightly higher prices for a product to support a small business, and over half are willing to pay for shipping in order to support a small, local and/or independent retailer. With an increased consumer desire to spend, SMB retailers have been given a major window of opportunity.

Visibility Into Shipping & Delivery is Key

COVID-19 and the supply chain issues of 2020 have heightened consumers’ expectation for visibility into their shipping and delivery. In fact, we found that more than 85% of consumers across the geographical board stated that they want full visibility into expected shipping timelines before making any online purchase. Consumers want to know where their item is, and are placing more value on improved visibility into the cost and timelines associated with shipping. By providing real-time shipping rates and delivery estimates during the checkout, retailers can encourage more sales and inspire customer loyalty.

Expectations for COVID-19 Shipping Incentives Continue

Free shipping and seamless returns are still among the most popular demands from consumers around the globe. In fact, in the U.S., Canada, and U.K., over half of consumers noted that COVID-19 has not made them any more willing to pay for shipping in exchange for faster shipping times. Across all four regions, an average of 53% of consumers expect brands to offer free shipping indefinitely after COVID-19. While these offerings were previously appreciated and not expected, consumers have enjoyed free shipping much over the last year that they now expect these as standard practice going forward.

Increased Delivery Options = Increased Customer Satisfaction

The research also shows that consumers globally have grown accustomed to the convenience of in-store pickup, curbside, and increased delivery options at checkout. In fact, across all four regions, an average of 44% of consumers noted they are less likely to shop with brands not offering curbside or pickup options after COVID-19. Many businesses added these services to keep business going and consumers safe, but it has become an expected part of the ecommerce experience. Retailers should continue to find ways to incorporate these options as standard practice to keep consumers long-term.

Consumers’ expectations are rising. Now is better than ever to rethink how your business can evolve. For additional findings, download ShipStation’s full report: “The Global Pulse: Ecommerce After COVID-19

3 Responses

  1. I wonder when people will realised that there is no such thing as free delivery and returns…. It is all factored into the items price. Hence when you buy something online, a part of the price will have been affected by return costs, whether you return an item or not! Suddenly that free return isn’t so free, and why are you paying towards someone elses return?!
    Buyers want more and more, yet complain when prices go up. The gulf between ‘wants and reality’ has never been larger. Indeed just last week a customer told me that the massive hike in container shipping cost that was pushing up my prices, was actually my problem, and not theirs, so i shouldn’t be passing it onto them in the form of price increases. Despite a short but informative conversation… they still insisted i should cover the cost from ‘elsewhere’, although never actaully suggesting where that was. This is sadly how influenced buyers have become by the big retailers over the years falling over themself to beat the competition by offering more and more for free, even when it is unsustainable.
    Seems that good customer service has now been trumped by more and more demands, and all for free!


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