SMF 2021: How shopping habits are shaping omnichannel strategies

During a virtual session of strategy's forum, Deloitte experts discussed the implications of new behaviours on physical retail.

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As the pandemic continues to shape consumer shopping habits, brands need to interface with consumers in the channels of their choosing, placing greater importance on omnichannel strategies.

That was one of the key takeaways from Deloitte’s virtual presentation, “Diving deep into today’s shopper insights,” held during the Shopper Marketing Forum on May 20. The findings were informed by the professional service firm’s biweekly pulse tracker that includes multiple countries, to better understand purchase drivers by categories and other sentiment.

Speakers Zaheer Jiwani, national leader of consumer industry at Deloitte Digital, and Farah Khan, manager for retail transformation at Deloitte, reported that a range of behaviours have been shaped by a year of lockdowns – from the way we live, shop and perceive restrictions to what we deem convenient and even our values. More of us are buying online, seeking one-stop-shop convenience, buying in bulk and cooking at home. These changes have broader implications for the role of the physical store.

Clients are redoing customer segmentation, as customers are decreasing the frequency of shop, while doubling their basket sizes. According to Deloitte, consumer desire for control has “skyrocketed” during COVID, with people prioritizing order customization and speedier delivery options.

According to Khan, more companies are repurposing physical outlets for an increasingly digital customer base, becoming fulfilment centres or “dark stores,” which are warehouses used to facilitate click-and-collect.

It’s also seeing changes in the approaches of last mile delivery providers like Instacart, which is finding new and innovative ways to capitalize on growth. Last year, the company launched a self-serve ad platform enabling marketers to promote their products in Instacart search results – one example of how new technologies are fostering new opportunities marketing, Khan says. “As marketers, we need to think through our approaches to engaging with consumers now, in their channels of choice, as well as the role of the physical store.”

While there’s been a 10% decline in those that prefer to shop in-store versus pre-pandemic numbers (43% vs 53%), there’s still opportunity for bricks-and-mortar. This is because consumers want to avoid shipping costs (52%), want to interact with products (50%) and want easier returns (40%), quicker purchases (38%) and the ability to gather inspiration (38%).

When it comes to differentiation, the pandemic has had a significant impact on the things we all value, Khan says. Consumers seem to gravitate to more brands that are putting a strong emphasis on the community and social responsibility, something that needs to be communicated effectively on an ongoing basis.

As Deloitte puts it, “Caring is critical.” It says organizations should view themselves as human entities that mirror and support the values of those they are meant to serve.

Trust is also part and parcel of this more human approach. In a survey of approximately 2,500 global consumers in eight countries, 66% of respondents were able to recall when a brand acted purely out of self-interest, such as price gouging.