The Latest Research from ShipStation: Has COVID Shifted Ecommerce Consumer Behavior For Good, Globally?

July 7, 2021

Consumer behavior has changed dramatically — and likely permanently — as a result of the global pandemic. Since March 2020, ShipStation has kept a pulse on the progression of COVID-19 and how it transformed ecommerce long-term. The results? Consumers globally are spending more, they’re supporting small businesses, they’re demanding more visibility into shipping and delivery, want free and easy returns, and are, of course, looking for more and more delivery options. 

Understanding how consumer trends have shifted can help merchants and businesses adapt their strategies for success. So, let’s dig into some of the key insights from the recent research study. 

Retail Spend is Strong

First, consumer retail spending was — and remains — strong. As of April 2021, and across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia, an average of 39% of consumers say they spent more on retail in 2020 than in 2019. More than half of consumers in these regions feel more financially stable than they did a year ago, and an average of 37% of these consumers said they expect to spend more in 2021 than they did in 2020. As digital adoption continues, it’s easier than ever for them to click “buy.” In fact, the majority of consumers across these regions (over 55%) still say that they’ll prefer to shop online instead of in stores, even post-pandemic. Over three-fourths of consumers in all regions even noted that quarantine pushed them to buy items online that they’d typically only purchase in-store before the pandemic. It’s clear that retailers need to continue investing in their ecommerce experience, even now that brick-and-mortar is back in full swing. 

Small Business Spending is Trending Upward

The pandemic hit small businesses hard. But the majority of consumers, globally, stepped up to shop small in an effort to bolster their local economies and the small business dreams of many. In all four regions, over 60% of consumers noted that they’d be willing to pay slightly higher prices for a product to support a small business, and over half are willing to pay for shipping in order to support a small, local and/or independent retailer. With an increased consumer desire to spend, SMB retailers have been given a major window of opportunity. 

Visibility Into Shipping & Delivery is Key

COVID-19 and the supply chain issues of 2020 have heightened consumers’ expectations for visibility into their shipping and delivery. In fact, we found that more than 85% of consumers across the geographical board stated that they want full visibility into expected shipping timelines before making any online purchase. Consumers want to know where their item is, and are placing more value on improved visibility into the cost and timelines associated with shipping. By providing real-time shipping rates and delivery estimates during the checkout, retailers can encourage more sales and inspire customer loyalty. 

Expectations for COVID-19 Shipping Incentives Continue

Free shipping and seamless returns are still among the most popular demands from consumers around the globe. In fact, in the U.S., Canada, and U.K., over half of consumers noted that COVID-19 has not made them any more willing to pay for shipping in exchange for faster shipping times. Across all four regions, an average of 53% of consumers expect brands to offer free shipping indefinitely after COVID-19. While these offerings were previously appreciated and not expected, consumers have enjoyed free shipping much over the last year that they now expect these as standard practice going forward.

Increased Delivery Options = Increased Customer Satisfaction

The research also shows that consumers globally have grown accustomed to the convenience of in-store pickup, curbside, and increased delivery options at checkout. In fact, across all four regions, an average of 44% of consumers noted they are less likely to shop with brands not offering curbside or pickup options after COVID-19. Many businesses added these services to keep business going and consumers safe, but it has become an expected part of the ecommerce experience. Retailers should continue to find ways to incorporate these options as standard practice to keep consumers long-term. 

Consumers’ expectations are rising. Now is better than ever to rethink how your business can evolve. For additional findings, download ShipStation’s full report: “The Global Pulse: Ecommerce After COVID-19”

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