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October 27, 2020

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6 min read

Reinventing the Shopper Experience...Are You Ready?

Back in the spring, we were all hopeful that lockdowns would be temporary. We hoped that, by acting early, we could get this situation in the rearview mirror. As we keep moving through the fall, though, it seems we’re in this for the long-haul. The second wave of sorts is here. And perhaps more or other waves yet to come.

We all have plenty of opinions and feelings about this. But the one question keeping Marketers awake at night is what does this mean for consumer shopping habits and how do we ensure our brands continue to be part of consumers’ consideration sets.

Lockdowns Forced a Move Online

The springtime lockdown had many people switching to online shopping for almost everything. Retail stores were shuttered, unless they were deemed “essential” businesses. That meant the grocery store was open, but your favourite café likely wasn’t. A pharmacy was open, but auto dealers and clothing retailers had to shut down.

Consumers and brands alike looked to the online space to find continuity. You couldn’t go visit a store and try on the clothes, but you could order them online.

Fear of exposure also drove some people to extremes. They may have felt uncomfortable going out, even for groceries. And if you were quarantined, you weren’t supposed to leave your property at all. That means no quick runs to the store to pick up milk if you happened to run out.

Some people asked friends and family to help, but there was also an uptick in delivery services. UberEats, SkiptheDishes, and DoorDash all saw booms in demand for takeout. Plenty of restaurants that had relied on in-person dining now switched to delivery.

They weren’t the only ones. Smaller retailers offered telephone and online orders, along with delivery and curbside pick-up. The LCBO in Ontario, for example, let you order wine and pick it up curbside. Some cannabis shops did the same thing.

Grocery stores and pharmacies also offered similar options. There was a sudden push to offer delivery, particularly for supermarkets.

We’ve seen online grocery efforts before. Amazon lets you buy plenty of grocery items. Grocery Gateway had been operating in Toronto for some time. Instacart made an enormous push—even amid worker complaints. Some stores teamed up with existing networks. Others attempted to build their own.

And these stores made this effort, because people were moving online.

Convenience May Overcome Old Attitudes

Shoe shopping and grocery shopping haven't shifted online. The reason is the attitude that says you want to go see these products yourself. With shoes or clothes, you may want to try them on before you buy them. With food, you want to pick the “best” piece of meat or head of lettuce.

There’s a concern with fresh groceries in particular that someone else won’t be as careful as you are. You’ll get bruised produce or poor cuts of meat or broken eggs.

Yet, in the context of the pandemic, safety outweighed these concerns for many people. In some cases, people who were quarantined simply couldn’t get out at all, so they had to rely on these networks. And what they likely discovered was that it was convenient to do so.

To order groceries online, you sit down with app and search what you want. If you have a grocery list and know the brands you buy, it’s easy to pick what you want, adjust quantities, and add to cart. Then you submit the order and let someone else do the work.

Grocery shopping, on average, takes almost an hour for an individual doing a once-a-week trip. That doesn’t include the time it takes to get to and from the store. It also doesn't include the time spent putting groceries away or extra time if the store happens to be busy. And there’s always the risk that you’ll forget something and need to go back. People who make more than one trip per week spend more than an hour on shopping.

What could you do with that hour—or more?

And we have an increasing elderly population. Many of them were resistant to online shopping. They weren’t familiar enough with the technology. Many of them had that attitude that you needed to complete a task like grocery shopping yourself.

In the context of the pandemic, that attitude has been overcome. Many people are delighted at how easy online shopping and grocery delivery can be. In turn, they’re likely going to stick with it.

Online Shopping Is Here to Stay—So Retail Customers and Consumer Brands Must Adjust

The outcome of all this is that consumer shopping habits have shifted. With subsequent waves and lockdown restrictions being re-imposed, these habits may be cemented.

In the spring, it was easy to think of these trends as temporary shifts. We’d order all our groceries online for a couple of months, then get back to “the usual.” Some people would stick with online ordering, sure, but more of us would switch back to the “normal” way of doing things.

The longer this situation continues, the more these trends are going to be habits. Convenience will no doubt sustain these new habits over time. Lockdowns will push us there.

For Marketers, it will mean cultivating consumer communities, especially for higher-end brands and luxury items. For food brands, it will mean making sure you have more digital touchpoints so your consumers remember you (digital coupons or discount codes or feature on customer websites, etc). And stores themselves will need to think about how they create a better digital experience as consumers will be judging them both in person and online.

And online makes comparison shopping so much easier, so regular grocery, drug and discount channels all can be compared from a couch to determine what Retail Brand has the best deal. An instore experience provides more options to create a sticky and pleasant shopping trip. But how do you translate that into a digital experience if more and more of your customers are picking up on the curb.

This is indeed a challenge and one that if Retail Customers are not working on, they need to and quick!

So, when reimagining your brand for this new, online world—remember to start with the why!

--Margo

Meet Margo…brand visioning & marketing

Margo Jay is a Master Brand Strategist with a career leading globally recognized brands; developing and launching a proven model that maximizes competitive sales potential and consumer appeal. She has built the model to help companies of all sizes. Her Client roster includes entrepreneurs through to Fortune 100 brands: NHL teams, Global QSR brands, CPG brands, Broadcast brands, Agencies, Non Profit brands, Hard goods…this model and process provides competitive advantage in any category.

Complete clarity. Ownable distinct selling proposition. Shared values. Brand Clarity. Brand Focus. Brand Inspiration. Brand Obsession. Unlocking brand potential is what she does.

And it all starts with why!

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