Local shopping takes the lead in post-pandemic consumer priorities

On November 11, 2021

By Dean Vocisano, Country Manager for Australia, ShopFully

While there has been a lot of rhetoric around how much consumers’ needs and preferences have changed due to the pandemic, in many ways this change is hard to grasp.

Forced lockdowns, vaccination status, check-ins, capacity limits – all of these are moving targets depending on the day and the region, and retailers are understandably struggling to keep up from a legal stand point, let alone figure out what consumers might want from them moving forward.

IAB Australia recently undertook a report into exactly this. The report, Australian Ecommerce Report 2021, which was conducted in June this year, sheds light on what consumers now want from retailers. It highlights a few key changes to the industry we have been noting over the last 18 months, mainly: omnichannel is vital, local shopping is enjoying a resurgence, and digital catalogues will be key to consumers’ hearts and hip pockets moving forward.

The consumer journey now involves both online and offline

Online and in-store is no longer an either/or proposition. Now, retailers looking to harness the buying power of the post-pandemic consumer need to seamlessly blend these two channels into one experience.

IAB’s report found while most consumers have increased the amount of shopping they do online over the last year out of necessity, this behaviour is likely to now be more permanent than perhaps some were expecting. Nevertheless, offline shopping will maintain its importance, with 36% of consumers saying they plan to return to in-person shopping, and 50% saying they will shop both online and in store moving forward.

Australian retailers have adapted to this change with investments in digital transformation, resulting in growth in ecommerce expenditure, and while convenience was named by 76% of online shoppers as the biggest driver of online shopping, it’s no longer a strong differentiator for brands to simply be online and offer choice. Now, the ideal consumer journey involves online and in store shopping as the norm.

Local shopping is more popular than ever

Whether as the result of lockdowns to LGAs, or a need to support local retailers, local shopping has emerged as vital to consumers moving forward. This has been something that we at ShopFully have been seeing for a number of years, in particular retailers’ increased investment towards hyperlocal marketing initiatives to drive consumers in store.

IAB found 46% of consumers are buying more things online from local retailers since the start of the pandemic, and 34% buying more things from smaller businesses online.

We are seeing this trend, too. People don’t want to travel vast distances to pick up the items they need. They want to shop local, enjoy immediate fulfillment, and get home safely. The key to harnessing this trend for retailers is to ensure those in their immediate area are well aware of their offerings.

Digital catalogues are king

And finally, digital catalogues are becoming increasingly important to connect with consumers. IAB found 19% of consumers always look at digital catalogues, and 43% sometimes look at digital catalogues before making their purchasing decisions. In fact, 62% often and sometimes read digital catalogues.

These findings are backed by our Nielsen research, which also found 80 percent of Aussie consumers use digital catalogues to collect information on the stores to visit.

Backing this trend, at ShopFully we’ve seen an 88% increase in in-app new sessions from consumers searching our catalogue database, and a 35% increase in engagement – this is not only driven by lockdowns. In fact, Nielsen research found 57% of Australians preferred to do the research online and then buy the same item in-store.

What can retailers do?

Retailers have a lot to contend with, but there are some simple ways they can give consumers what they need, while also boosting their bottom lines.

Multiple research points have shown digital catalogues are emerging as a great way to connect with consumers. Aussies are increasingly using their smartphone as an anywhere, anytime ‘remote control’ for shopping, to plan in-store trips in advance, seek out product information, and find the best deals, so they can shop quickly and safely.

This naturally leans into the trend IAB found towards more local shopping, as consumers are a little more hesitant to leave their LGAs. Digital catalogues drive consumers to local stores and offer the kind of hyperlocal experience consumers now want.

And finally, it is of vital importance retailers’ instore and online experiences match up. It is no longer a case of either/or. Now the ideal consumer buyer journey consists of research online using marketing materials like a digital catalogue on a smartphone, saving the best buys for later, and then visiting a local store when timing and safety allows for it. The retailers who harness this simple journey will be the ones to get ahead of the game, as we all adjust to the new ways of shopping.