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The Return Of Non-Essential In-Store Shopping

September 11, 2020 Carolyn Harding

Shutterstock_1754696390 Young girl a cashier in a mask and gloves in a clothing store because of the covid-19 virus. A woman in a medical mask buys clothes. Girl pays for purchases in the store with a card

The question on many brands’ minds is whether the dramatic spike in online shopping during the pandemic will translate into a permanent shopping behavior for consumers in a post-COVID-19 world. But, recent studies have proven that the desire for the traditional in-store shopping experiences has not wavered for many consumers, with a large majority of shoppers stating their plans to return to stores, specifically for items many have considered “non-essential” throughout the past several months.

Equally as important as being prepared for the return of in-store shopping, however, is the ability to identify the motivators and evolved shopping patterns behind this return to in-store shopping.

In-Store Shopping For Non-Essential Items Spikes, But Varies Across Demographics

According to a recent Mood Media study, 67% of consumers across the globe have ventured back into non-essential stores, with just 10% of consumers stating they “would never go back to their old habits (presumably traditional retail shopping) after the pandemic is over.” Among the list of benefits that in-store shopping provides, the factors consumers appreciate most are the chance to physically feel and test products, the ability to immediately bring a purchase home and the opportunity to leisurely browse products. Additional non-essential in-store shopping trends include:

  • 71% of consumers feel comfortable shopping in-store now that many stay-at-home orders have lifted. 
  • More than 50% of consumers expect “normal” shopping habits to return by summer 2021, or sooner.
  • U.S. males, specifically in the Southeast, proved to be the “most optimistic” when discussing the future of in-store shopping. U.S. females, specifically in the West, on the other hand, were said to be the “least optimistic.”
  • Respondents aged 16-24 are the most comfortable returning to physical stores for non-essential shopping, while respondents aged 55 and older are the least comfortable.

Consumers Are Still Spending Less Money & Time While Shopping In-Store

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Even though consumers’ overall attitude toward non-essential shopping in-store has dramatically improved, their shopping behaviors while physically inside stores are still evolving. Mood Media’s survey shared “the largest portion of consumers surveyed (31%) are spending less money and less time shopping in-store than they did before COVID-19, compared with 21% spending the same amount of money but less time than before and only 3% spending both more money and more time than before the pandemic.”

The gravitation toward less time spent in-store highlights the ongoing trend of consumers remaining cautious while slowly re-entering “normal” life. Scott Moore, Global CMO at Mood Media, has labeled this new era of in-store shoppers as “mission shoppers,” whose primary goal is to get in and out of a physical store in a speedy manner, rather than leisurely shopping.

Safety Measures Remain A Top Priority When Returning To Stores

As the return of in-store shopping shows strong signs of success, the importance of implementing adequate safety measures is a make-or-break factor for many consumers. In fact, 71% of consumers across the globe shared their feelings of confidence in returning to physical stores, so long as there were sufficient “retailer safety precautions” in place. Additionally, 80% of consumers specifically stated stores that require all customers to wear face masks is the “most important measure that helps drive a sense of safety.”

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“Initiatives such as overhead messaging and digital signage that inform shoppers of the steps being taken to ensure a clean environment are of paramount importance to increase comfort levels in-store,” added Moore.

The fear of being exposed to COVID-19 while in-store is on many consumers’ minds while shopping – even with the proper safety precautions in place – with 49% of global consumers believing there is a chance they will catch COVID-19 while shopping inside a physical store. The U.S. in particular showed a strong fear of being exposed to COVID-19, with 60% of American respondents expressing concern. Ultimately, if a consumer doesn’t feel safe when returning to stores, retailers run the risk of losing consumer confidence and, ultimately, sales.

As consumers and brands cautiously prepare for a post-pandemic world, the responsibility for businesses to create safe and seamless shopping experiences is heightened. Acknowledging responsibility and adapting to today’s evolving consumer expectations is vital for brands looking to connect and establish trust with their audiences.

“Those of us in the physical retail business must continue to think through every aspect – every step – of the customer experience journey, finding ways to mitigate fear and assure safety along the way,” said Moore. “Those businesses that step up to elevate the customer experience and help their customers streamline their shopping journey from start to finish have an opportunity to create a lifetime of customer loyalty far beyond the pandemic’s reach.”

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About the Author

Carolyn Harding

Carolyn Harding is an Associate Manager of Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. DMS helps its clients accelerate growth by deploying diversified and data-driven customer acquisition solutions that deliver scalable, sustainable and measurable marketing results. DMS performance marketing solutions connect the right consumers with the right offers at the right time to achieve the marketing objectives of our clients. DMS is continually innovating to provide new and emerging media and technology solutions that minimize waste and maximize results across the most competitive industries. Since its inception, DMS has demonstrated incredible year-over-year growth which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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