The future still remains uncertain, with most people hoping the end of the pandemic is going to arrive sooner rather than later. This means many consumers have been evolving their shopping habits to fit what the global pandemic has brought on. These changes, in turn, have made companies work harder to understand the motivations and habits of consumers. Some of the changes that consumers made in the last year include a new appreciation for in-store shopping experiences, along with the need for convenience and speed in purchase-making. In the last year, consumers have reported that they spent most of their disposable income on dining out, clothing, and electronics. Many consumers have also noted that one of the driving forces behind their shopping decisions was the desire to know when they need something, instead of shopping for shopping’s sake. This is relatively normal, given the global uncertainty regarding the future, especially in terms of the pandemic, but there are plenty of other contributing factors that motivate consumers as well.
Digital vs. In-Person
The pandemic forced a lot of businesses to move their operations online or shut down completely, which made things very difficult for many, especially for brick-and-mortar stores. Throughout 2021 however, many consumers have realized that they actually prefer learning about new products in physical stores instead of online. Although the digital shopping experience made shopping simpler for consumers, the physical experience of visiting a store still draws many in, due to several factors—between having the ability to ask salespeople for advice, sharing the shopping experience with friends and family, and the sense of community of shopping together—more than half of all consumers prefer in-person shopping to digital.
Sustainability & Ethics
Many consumers have also stated that they prefer shopping with businesses that offer sustainable products, services, and operations. More than 70 percent of consumers research the sustainability and ethical practices of brands, as well as those of their supply chains, before deciding to make a purchase. In 2021, consumers increasingly turned to smaller and local businesses and charitable organizations when deciding where to spend their money. Additionally, consumers tend to conduct research on business owners themselves—relying on social media, publications, blogs, news outlets, and word-of-mouth—especially when it came to finding and supporting minority- and black-owned businesses.
Despite consumers craving in-person shopping experiences, many still rely on the digital spaces that companies provide for shopping. The biggest trends in the digital space for consumers have been low shipping rates, in-app shopping opportunities, personalized recommendations through the use of artificial intelligence (AI), and installment-style payment plans. Additionally, many consumers have enjoyed seeing their favorite brands appear on gaming platforms, as well as the benefits that interactive chat, reverse image search, and voice search provide. Companies that have not started investing in these features should do so as soon as possible in order to capitalize on their conversion capabilities.
The author, Dara A. Busch, is president of the Consumer Practice at 5W Public Relations.
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