Being hunkered down in quarantine for roughly two months has made consumers appreciate the convenience and ease of online shopping more than ever before.

In wave 3 of our international COVID-19 study:

43% of internet users globally said they’ll be shopping online more frequently when the pandemic ends.

This attitude is most prevalent among 35-44 year-olds, of which 45% said they’ll be shopping online more post-outbreak, compared to 34% of 55-64 year-olds. 

This expected increase in online shopping will likely force brands to potentially reconsider their online shopping features and offerings.   

In the era of Amazon Prime and Prime Now, we’ve come to expect instantaneous gratification – almost to the point where we wish it was possible for brands to predict and deliver what we want, even before we realize we want it.

Same or next day delivery

This desire for instant gratification has not only escalated amid the outbreak, it’s expected to increase even further once the outbreak is over – particularly for those in higher income groups.

People have become accustomed to fast delivery to obtain essential goods (for which demand exponentially) and purchase non-essential goods geared around entertainment in the home.

High income consumers are best suited to continue this lifestyle of immediate gratification post-quarantine, being more financially able and down to their willingness to pay more for fast delivery whenever they choose to.

The desire to continue a lifestyle of instant gratification is most prevalent in South Africa, where 46% of internet users said same- or next-day delivery will become more important to them in the future.

The future of online shopping post-outbreak

How will online shopping behaviors adopted during outbreak conditions influence the shopping landscape after the pandemic dies down? Will we ever go back to “normal” shopping behaviors, or will we be forced to develop a new normal, centered around social distancing for some time?

When asked about expected post-corona shopping behaviors, 40% of internet users said they’d buy more things online for delivery – while this may simply be a result of the realization of how much easier online shopping can be, it’s likely this is partially due to extra social-distancing precautions as well.

Shopping behaviors post-outbreak

The outbreak has forced businesses and brands around the world to get creative with how they sell their products and services in the midst of storefront closures.

This global challenge has resulted in a sort of renaissance of ecommerce through the development of advanced ecommerce VR technology.

In the retail sector, the ecommerce startup Obsess has paved the way for VR retail experiences, and though the product wasn’t developed to help businesses ride out this difficult time, the company’s success has boomed in the last month due to increased need for virtual retail experiences.

Dior, for example, is one of the many brands to adopt this “VR Retail Experience” to recreate the experience of shopping in physical stores online for its customers.

While it’s easy to overlook the value of physical store space in the age of Amazon and convenience online shopping clearly provides, store space in many ways is still essential for brands.

And while consumers may look online for particular products, window-shopping and being able to walk through a showcase of all available products can encourage people to buy things they didn’t even know they needed.

Hence, the ability to offer VR retail experiences has become hugely valuable to brands at a time when consumers are delaying so many purchases. This is the case particularly for luxury brands, since internet users say luxury items are one of the top purchases they’re delaying – with 30% of internet users in the Asia Pacific region doing so.

Though demand for physical stores will remain high, the corona era has taught consumers that you can get almost anything you could possibly need online at the touch of a button – further incentivizing businesses and brands to explore the ecommerce revenue streams in creative ways.

The implications for physical stores 

As for in-store shopping behaviors post-outbreak, 32% of global internet users say they’ll visit stores less frequently and will spend less time in stores. These predicted behaviors describe a group who won’t be so quick to give up social distancing precautions in their daily life.

When we break this down by age group, 16-24 year-olds for example, are more likely to spend longer browsing/researching online before visiting physical stores, and make more use of self-service check-outs in their transition back to ‘normal’ shopping habits.

25-34 year-olds however, have a greater likelihood of buying more things online for in-store collection once this all blows over.

Buying things online for in-store collection has the potential to change the shopping landscape into one not too dissimilar from the fast-food and restaurant landscape – with a similar concept of “take-out”, involving ordering ahead and picking up items once ready.

It’ll be interesting to track how this particular concept will take off, in a world more conscious of social distancing, but even more set on immediate gratification.

COVID-19 has also taught us that everything is covered in bacteria – especially everyday objects such as phones, credit cards and cash. So, how are we supposed to pay for things in a sanitary way? Enter: mobile payment services, the antidote to going shopping in-person.

34% of consumers globally said after the outbreak, they’ll be using mobile payment services more frequently.

While mobile payment services have been around for some time, they’ve arguably reached peak demand under today’s compromised circumstances, opening many doors for contactless and more alternative methods of payment.

To best service their customers and cash in on the opportunity, supermarkets and convenience stores such as Walmart and Publix have started rolling out their own mobile payment services for contactless check-out.

In addition, small businesses and farmers markets have started engaging more with these types of services, owing to the fact mobile payment services are easily accessible for all types of businesses.

The social media giant Facebook is even attempting to get its foot in the door with mobile payment services and is currently discussing how to roll out the feature in Indonesia.

This period when mobile payment services have arguably become an “essential” means of contributing to the economy may pave the way for stronger engagement with mobile payment services globally in future.

When asked how quickly they plan to return to shops once stores start opening again, internet users across world regions said they’ll return “quite quickly”.

How soon we plan to return to shops

Internet users in North America and Europe are more likely to express this sentiment, with those in Asia Pacific less likely to feel the same sense of eagerness.

So, when will we return to “normal”? While the world is hopeful this will all be over soon, the effects of COVID-19 – especially economic – could well last a lot longer.

To continue trading, some retailers have already re-opened, adapting to a new normal for the time being at least. It’s these businesses that can give us a closer look at what life might be like after quarantine – or at least in the interim.

The return to normal must be managed carefully

Several countries and cities in Europe are slowly starting to re-open stores and schools alike in safe, sanitary, and social-distanced ways.

Most, if not all of the countries and cities now re-opening all have one thing in common: they took aggressive lockdown measures early to stop the spread of the virus. This includes certain cities and states in the U.S. and a growing number around the world.

As the economy reopens, people will consider how brands and businesses dealt with the virus as a factor in their purchase decisions.

One of the top factors that may influence brand support in future is whether or not a brand made the effort to help people during the outbreak, and this is a feeling backed by 38% of internet users globally. Of those who said this, 41% are aged 16-24, and only 30% are in the 55-64 age bracket.

Another factor consumers will consider when making future purchase decisions will be whether or not brands offered flexible payment terms during this time. In spite of this, while consumers have wanted to support brands that’ve been accommodating during these difficult times, there is one basic need that trumps all.

When it comes down to it, the biggest overarching priority consumers have will still be whether or not a brand meets their needs.

Everyone is eager to get out of this mess and get the global economy moving – let’s just hope the excitement over being able to return to stores will coincide with the knowledge and precautions necessary to prevent the spread of a new wave of the virus.

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Written by

Emily is a Strategic Insights Analyst at GWI. She uses GWI data to understand consumers and strategize how brands can better reach their audiences. She also contributes to the Chart of the Week blog series, with a particular interest in social media and anthropology. Before joining GWI, Emily completed a degree in Economics and Global Studies at Colby College in Maine.

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