Online sales fall won’t stop long march to digital future

online-shop100The fall in UK online shopping sales to pre-Covid levels is only likely to be a “blip”, with the long-term future of retail steadfastly being shaped by digital, as shoppers envision a future where nearly two-thirds (64%) of their shopping will be online within a decade.

That is according to Wunderman Thompson Commerce & Technology’s Future Shopper Report 2023, which quizzed over 31,000 consumers globally on their current and future shopping habits.

It claims that, globally at least, online shopping will continue its dominance by accounting for 58% of all spend. However, we may be seeing a point of maturity, with a modest 1% increase in overall online spend compared to last year.

Despite the dominance of marketplaces such as Amazon, Alibaba, and Mercado Libre, their combined share of 35% in global online purchases remains unchanged from the previous year, however, they still top the list when it comes to where shoppers purchase.

In second place we see supermarkets and grocers at 15%, followed by branded websites at 14%. But trust in discount marketplaces extends well beyond shopping, with 42% open to using dating apps, and 51% comfortable purchasing energy, water and utilities, provided by marketplaces.

And it seems report of the death of the high street are way off the mark; 60% of shoppers say they prefer to shop with brands and retailers that have both physical and digital stores, making a strong case for omnichannel strategies.

Working from home may be affecting purchase behaviours too, with 66% of global consumers saying that they spend more time researching their purchases due to WFH, and 65% stating they have discovered new brands and retailers due to WFH.

Even so, no matter what channel consumers choose, the cost-of-living crisis continues to sway decision-making, with price commanding the loyalty of over half (56%) of global shoppers and 53% willing to switch allegiances between retailers and brands for a better price.

Nevertheless, it is not all about price, as 23% of consumers expect their products to be delivered in less than 2 hours. And given that 19% of everything ordered online is ultimately returned, free and easy returns are a key battleground.

The stakes are high for retailers and brands to get it right, as 51% of consumers are prepared to abandon those that fail to meet their expectations for a seamless omnichannel experience.

Wunderman Thompson Commerce and Technology global head of consultancy and innovation Hugh Fletcher said: “After years of Covid-related uncertainty, we seem to be seeing the first signs of more settled and predictable consumer behaviour. But settled does not mean simple. And in today’s fragmented omnichannel retail landscape, a seamless shopping experience across every channel is not merely an advantage, but essential for brands and retailers.

Whether you’re a brand, marketplace, social media platform, search engine or physical retailer, the winning formula for success can be achieved through balancing the right price, exceptional service, and a relevant experience across all channels and devices that not only grows but retains customers.

“The question that all brands and retailers must ask themselves is how prepared are they for the consumer of the future? The clues to their future demands are all held within the data, but are businesses making the right investments now to ensure that they can provide the right experiences across the channels that consumers will come to expect?”

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