Consumer PRHow toRetail PRTop Tips 06.08.2020

How retail consumers’ buying habits have changed

It comes as no surprise that online shopping has seen a huge spike during Covid-19 and the country-wide lockdown. However, despite being in the midst of a global pandemic, it was reported by PriceWaterhouseCooper (PWC) in May 2020 that many UK consumers still have disposable money and are willing to spend, particularly in the fashion, beauty and wellbeing sectors – which is great news for the e-commerce and retail world!


Online shopping

Perhaps unsurprisingly, online shopping habits saw a rise as we went into lockdown and have accelerated existing trends (such as click and collect services), with no sign of stopping anytime soon. Whilst some people were unable to leave the house to do their weekly grocery shops, supermarkets saw off-the-scale demand for online shopping, thus limiting the number of available “slots” for customers, even with more staff being employed. We also saw an increasing number of consumers trawling online clothing, beauty and homeware sites, as consumers were looking to treat themselves throughout lockdown. We also saw more consumers turning to online retailers for things like prescription glasses and ordering new cars and even boats – products that were previously seen as too personalised or high value to order online.

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Customer service

During this time, call centres and help desks have been inundated – particularly with reduced staffing levels. However, the service customers have received has been a key differentiator between brands for retail customers, with great service in difficult circumstances being recognised by consumers. A lot of retail brands extended their returns policies from 28/30 days to 90 days+ to support their customers when they couldn’t get out and about (although in some cases this has reverted back to the original returns policies now). Customers are more likely to shop with you again if they experience great customer service and quality products, even if there is a premium to be paid for this service.

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Another trend highlighted through the rise of online shopping is the awareness of what we actually need and use. Consumers are now being more considerate about what they buy, where from and questioning whether they really need the product. Considering the impact on the environment and whether it was being used has impacted retail consumers’ purchasing habits online and which brands were purchased from. This has also been seen through subscriptions, with many consumers cancelling subscriptions to sites they do not use or do not want to use anymore.

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Supporting local

With many of us not travelling far and being more aware of what and where we are buying our products, we are reverting to buying local and supporting smaller, independent retailers. The research conducted by PWC reported that 24% of people are buying more from small shops and independent retailers than they did previously. Whilst there can be a slight rise in the cost of buying local, consumers feel content knowing exactly where their produce has come from and that they are supporting a local business during this time.

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The future of bricks and mortar

One of the biggest benefits of shopping on the high street was the ability to touch, feel and try on clothing, or compare products side-by-side. Even as restrictions have eased and

people can shop in-store again, new regulations have been introduced about trying on items of clothing and touching products. This, coupled with the need for social distancing, means there is likely to be less promotion encouraging people to come and shop in-store, as there are limits as to how many people can safely be in a store at any one time. This begs the question, what does in-store shopping experience now offer that is more valuable or different, to sitting at home and ordering online?

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We’re living in a new and changing world, and whilst Covid-19 still restricts how and where we shop, our shopping habits will continue to evolve. We’d love to hear about your recent shopping experiences, get in touch via: For more thoughts and advice on retail PR, check out our blog on bossing your retail PR campaign.

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