How have online shopping habits changed during lockdown?

As the UK approaches a third month of lockdown, many aspects of our daily lives have changed. In terms of consumer behaviour, we have seen many changes to our online shopping habits which has meant good news for some retailers but, at the same time, the developments have potentially provided a worrying insight into the future for others.

This week shares in Amazon hit a record high of nearly $2,500 per share as people round the world turn to the online giant to stock up on essentials that are becoming hard to get in their local stores. This upturn in sales has led to Amazon indicating that they will look to hire 100,000 additional staff in the USA alone, as they are responding to these higher demand levels.

This boost in online sales could well be here to stay, with a recent online survey in the UK indicating that 25% of Britons are now buying items that they previously bought in high-street stores online. Highlights in the survey included that 60% felt their shopping habits had permanently changed because of lockdown, with 15% indicating they would shop less in brick and mortar stores in the future. Worrying times indeed for high-street retailers, many of which are already feeling the strain under the negative financial impact of lockdown restrictions.

The burden on these high street retailers has also had a huge impact on their manufacturers in countries such as Bangladesh. Edinburgh-based shopping app Mallzee estimates that cancelled orders by fashion retail brands have led to over $2 million USDs worth of clothes being produced that are no longer wanted, which is having a devastating impact on these local economies.

In response, Mallzee launched https://loststock.co/ to help combat this crisis. Lost Stock matches up clothes that have been produced and are no longer required by retailers with consumers looking for a bargain. This excellent idea allows people to not only to get a great deal but also to support a fantastic cause, helping poverty-stricken manufacturers and reducing landfill.

With many people earning less money than before, it is no surprise that ideas such as Lost Stock are proving popular. Search trends certainly indicate that while people are increasingly moving towards online shopping, they are being careful where and how they spend their hard-earned cash. The below charts shows searches for “free delivery” compared to last year.

2019 vs 2020 search interest in “free delivery” in the UK:

'Free delivery' searches 2019 vs 2020

There is a very clear spike in “free delivery” searches, with a particularly noticeable increase at the start of the lockdown in the UK:

'Free delivery' searches over lockdown

“Free Returns” has also seen a gradual increase, likely due to more online retailers unable to show their clothing on actual models. Whereas previously users were used to being able to judge the fit and sizing of clothing using another person as a reference point, there is now a bit more guess work involved. This in turn has led to an increase in clothing being returned when it does not fit.

'Free returns' searches over lockdown

This spike in interest for these terms certainly suggest that online retailers should be looking to incorporate relevant messaging within their advert copy if they offer free delivery or returns as its likely to improve their CTR.

Overall, it certainly feels that many of the changes are here to stay and will cause retailers both on and offline to really examine their current business models and ways of working in order to face this dramatic shift in consumer behaviour.

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