Four Things British Shoppers Are Telling Us About the Future of Digital Commerce as Lockdown Eases

by Peter Bell

Posted on 08-13-2020

The COVID-19 pan­dem­ic rep­re­sents a gen­er­a­tion-defin­ing event that’s dras­ti­cal­ly affect­ed every cor­ner of the globe. In retail, almost overnight, the entire face and future of the sec­tor changed forever.

To bet­ter under­stand how the retail indus­try has shift­ed long term, we asked shop­pers direct­ly about how the pan­dem­ic and its restric­tions have changed their spend­ing, atti­tudes, and shop­ping behaviours.

As a sem­blance of nor­mal­i­ty returns to the British shop­ping scene, the insights we’ve uncov­ered reveal much about the short­com­ings and oppor­tu­ni­ties that have sur­faced dur­ing this incon­ceiv­able peri­od of our lives, and pro­vide many lessons for how retail­ers can thrive in the future.

1) Mar­ket­places have been there for con­sumers in lock­down

Under­stand­ably, dig­i­tal com­merce was one area that thrived dur­ing lock­down. With so many phys­i­cal stores clos­ing their doors, sea­soned dig­i­tal buy­ers and first-time online shop­pers alike flood­ed the web with essen­tial and non-essen­tial orders.

How­ev­er, despite the imme­di­a­cy of this dig­i­tal oppor­tu­ni­ty for all retail­ers, estab­lished online mar­ket­places such as Ama­zon took the lion’s share of spend, with 57% of Brits pre­fer­ring to shop via these plat­forms, ver­sus 13% for a retailer’s own web­site, and just 1% for their ded­i­cat­ed apps.

In fact, the aver­age UK shop­per made 11 pur­chas­es on a mar­ket­place site in the past four months, ver­sus three pur­chas­es from an online retail­er, sug­gest­ing there’s more work to be done to boost com­merce on a retailer’s owned channels.

One such chan­nel is ded­i­cat­ed apps. Apps pro­vide not only a valu­able con­duit for gath­er­ing con­sumer data in order to pro­vide per­son­alised and enhanced dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences, they also enable retail­ers to inte­grate with estab­lished mar­ket­place giants. By allow­ing retail­ers to simul­ta­ne­ous­ly com­pete and col­lab­o­rate with online mar­ket­places, apps rep­re­sent a vital oppor­tu­ni­ty for brands to tap into the grow­ing trend for online commerce.

2) Brands can learn from dig­i­tal short­com­ings dur­ing lock­down

When swathes of con­sumers turned to dig­i­tal to sat­is­fy their shop­ping needs dur­ing lock­down, many ecom­merce plat­forms were found wanting. In the UK, for example, 28% of shop­pers described their over­all expe­ri­ence online as nei­ther pos­i­tive nor neg­a­tive, with 3% going as far as to say it was negative.

Despite this, many peo­ple were will­ing to over­look a drop in web­site per­for­mance or below-par online expe­ri­ences. There was an under­stand­ing that every­one was strug­gling dur­ing this time, and this afford­ed brands a degree of short-term lenien­cy as they got their hous­es in order.

This peri­od of clemen­cy won’t last long though, and brands can learn from the short­falls expe­ri­enced dur­ing lock­down, to future­proof against sim­i­lar issues aris­ing over the com­ing months. For exam­ple, dur­ing lock­down, at least one-third of UK con­sumers expe­ri­enced each of the fol­low­ing issues while shop­ping online:

These issues, in no large part, have con­tributed to the suc­cess of online mar­ket­places like Ama­zon, who boast estab­lished dig­i­tal infra­struc­tures capa­ble of deal­ing with such vol­ume. The oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn from these short­falls is evi­dent, how­ev­er, and should pro­vide ample moti­va­tion for retail brands to look at evolv­ing their dig­i­tal infra­struc­ture via re-platforming.

3) Cus­tomers will try their old favourites, but the bar has been raised

The suc­cess of online mar­ket­places doesn’t auto­mat­i­cal­ly mean indi­vid­ual retail­ers can’t com­pete. Just look at Oak­house Foods, who, hav­ing moved to Magen­to 2 Com­merce last year, was able to man­age con­sid­er­able surge in demand dur­ing the height of lock­down, while also opti­mis­ing its mobile and tablet expe­ri­ence for peo­ple with poor eye­sight and mobility.

Seam­less inte­grat­ed shop­ping expe­ri­ences have become crit­i­cal over the past few months. There are many fac­tors influ­enc­ing this: pay­ment secu­ri­ty, con­ve­nient selec­tion of pay­ment and deliv­ery ser­vices and accu­rate ship­ping rates among others.

It’s clear that cus­tomers expect the whole retail sec­tor to raise the bar in pro­vid­ing com­pelling omnichan­nel shop­ping expe­ri­ences. Busi­ness­es that relied exclu­sive­ly on in-per­son sell­ing are scram­bling to get their hous­es in order,​while well-estab­lished online busi­ness­es are strug­gling to keep up with demand mak­ing re-plat­form­ing a high­er pri­or­i­ty.

This is where own­ing a cen­tralised online plat­form ele­vates a retailer’s ecom­merce offer­ing – one that’s open source and allows seam­less inte­gra­tion with third-par­ties; hous­es robust data ana­lyt­ics capa­bil­i­ties; and is scal­able, flex­i­ble and easy to manage.

4) Look­ing ahead, envi­ron­men­tal con­cerns could breathe life back into the high street

Despite the promi­nent use of online mar­ket­places over the past few months, peo­ple right­ly recog­nise the need for sus­tain­abil­i­ty cam­paigns that pro­mote green­er high-street spending, helping mit­i­gate the increas­ing envi­ron­men­tal impact of online commerce.

The most pop­u­lar mea­sures among UK con­sumers include:

After all, today’s con­scious con­sumers are infi­nite­ly more mind­ful of the prod­ucts they buy. Non-essen­tial items are dri­ven by self-preser­va­tion rather than consumerism. For exam­ple, a quar­ter (24%) of Brits say they buy prod­ucts to sup­port men­tal health, while 22% say they pur­chase items for phys­i­cal health, well­be­ing, and fitness.

Retail­ers faced myr­i­ad chal­lenges dur­ing lock­down, which means pro­vid­ing dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences is no longer enough to ensure long-last­ing cus­tomer loy­al­ty. Now, retail­ers need to fac­tor in brand pur­pose to their cam­paigns, while using AI and ana­lyt­ics to tru­ly under­stand the wants and needs of their cus­tomers from a pur­pose per­spec­tive, to tru­ly engage with them.

To learn more about how Adobe has helped brands cre­ate busi­ness growth through com­merce, go to Com­merce Cloud Cus­tomer suc­cess sto­ries .

Topics: Commerce, Customer Experience, digital commerce, digital marketing, retail, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA