As the coronavirus lockdown begins to ease, shops are beginning to open as well. Yet, studies are showing that consumers aren’t comfortable with the idea of visiting physical stores. Ernst and Young recently conducted a survey researching the main shopping trends among British consumers during COVID-19. The Future Consumer Index study found that UK-based consumers remain cautious about returning to the shopping environment. In fact, out of 1,017 UK-based respondents, only 25 percent admitted to feeling comfortable shopping even in a grocery store.
Before lockdown, consumers were concerned whether a product was sustainable or not. This has now changed. EY’s report found that consumers are rather prioritising product availability (59%), price (43%) and health (41%) the most.
What is interesting, whilst consumers are ready to shop for clothes, they do not feel comfortable trying them on. This was also evident in another study done by First Insight. The research found that 78 percent of female consumers wouldn’t feel safe enough to test beauty products. What is more, over half of females would have problems working with a sales associate post pandemic. The same goes for men, with 54 percent saying they wouldn’t feel safe enough to try on clothes in the store.
Furthermore, consumers based in the UK believe that their shopping behaviour will change over the next two years. According to EY, 64 percent of consumers said they expect to visit stores less. Over half (57%) also said they will be more aware of hygiene-related requirements when shopping.
It is clear that consumers are expecting things to take months or even years to go back to normal. People are also expecting to forego many free-time activities, such as visiting a restaurant or going to the cinema.
Millennials feel the safest returning to the normal shopping behaviour
First Insight found that millennials feel the safest returning to the normal shopping environment. Less than half (48%) of the generation said they would not feel safe trying on clothes in a dressing room. To compare, 71 percent of baby boomers said the same. This is also logical, as baby boomers fall into the high risk COVID-19 category.
EY recommends companies to reinvent the customer experience by reducing the anxiety among shoppers. The challenge for retailers will be to interact with shoppers in a hands-free manner to help meet their shopping needs. This is especially relevant among baby boomers. It is important to make older consumers feel comfortable and safe again, said Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight.
EY’s study also asked consumers what would make them feel safer during shopping. Consumers responded with hand sanitizer (80%) and limiting the amount of people in-store (80%). A close third was making face masks compulsory (79%). Temperature checks and self-checkout were also brought up by 69% of respondents.
According to Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight, the purchasing experience will be anything but normal. It is also possible that retailers might have to reconsider their return policies if consumers don’t feel comfortable trying on clothes in the store.