How COVID-19 has influenced online shopping & what does the future hold
COVID-19 and lockdown have impacted how the British public shops with online shopping becoming an essential way of life for the majority of people. The industry has seen a year on year increase of 10% for March and April 2020* as shoppers relied more on online retailers for essential and non-essential items.
Interested in what this meant for our clients and customers, we used our Have Your Say customer feedback programme to gather more insight into shoppers’ feelings about their current use of online shopping and how this would impact the sector in the future.
What have shoppers been buying?
The first point we wanted to know was what consumers had been buying online during lockdown. With apparent shortages of items such as toilet roll, flour and baking products making the headlines, we analysed what our customers said they had been purchasing to see if what they bought online matched up. Interestingly, most Yodel customers were buying the same amount of baking products or less during lockdown as beforehand, with 50% saying they had bought the same amount. Although 25% of those surveyed said they had bought more items as they filled their days with at-home-baking, the remaining 25% said they had reduced the number of items being bought.
It wasn’t just baking goods that made the news as people looked to spend their increased time at home by doing some home improvements. In the eight weeks after lockdown, we saw a significant increase in the number of parcels containing home and garden furniture going through our network. This supports our customer feedback as our survey showed that 44% of people bought more DIY and gardening items than pre-lockdown.
The British public were a generous bunch during lockdown with 46% of our survey respondents saying that had purchased more gift items online than before lockdown. With Mother’s Day, Easter and lots of Birthdays and other special occasions spent at home, online gifting became an easy way to stay in touch with those we love on those important days.
What do customers think about their deliveries?
Our survey shows that lockdown has altered the public’s perception of delivery; over 90% agreed that delivery drivers were providing an essential service. Shoppers’ priorities changed during lockdown too. Nearly 90% of customers cited Next Day Delivery as an important factor when online shopping earlier this year, but this figure has dropped by over 30% since lockdown. Other attributes that saw a decline in importance include free delivery being offered and the goods arriving on time.
COVID-19 highlighted the number of potential human touchpoints a parcel has; from retailer to door, with two thirds of respondents saying they were concerned about this aspect of their delivery. At Yodel, we knew how important it was to reassure customers that we were taking the utmost care when handling their parcel at every step in the parcel’s journey. Through constant communications and updates on our website, we hoped to reassure customers that we were doing everything possible to keep our colleagues, customers, and their families safe. Adding these communications and adapting our delivery processes, including introducing contactless deliveries, were highlighted as vital aspects of a home delivery, with 82% of respondents saying they were concerned about this.
What does the future of online shopping look like?
As lockdown measures begin to ease and a sense of normality is seen once again, will the increase in online shopping be maintained? According to our respondents, it will. Three quarters replied that they plan to shop online more post-lockdown with 70% saying they plan on buying a larger variety of items online once lockdown is over. COVID-19 has opened the eyes to many members of the public to the multitude of items that can be delivered directly to your door. With many pre-COVID-19 shoppers citing convenience as the main reason they choose to shop online, those new to the world of online shopping are experiencing shopping with such ease.
Gifts too will continue to be bought online as over two thirds of respondents listed this as the item that they will continue to purchase once customers are able to return to the shops, closely followed by fashion.
As the easing of lockdown restrictions continues and more high street shops are opening, customers may feel that the safety and ease of online shopping is preferential as we adapt back to normality. The online retail and delivery sectors have played such a pivotal role in keeping the nation going over recent months and the adaptations made during this time to provide a safe experience for all may reassure shoppers in the future.
*Channel Advisor, May 2020
Statistics taken from Yodel's Have Your Say customer feedback tool, May 2020 - 13,188 respondents