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Retail Innovation|April 08, 2020

Omnichannel in Crisis: Can Retailers and Brands Meet Online Shopper Expectations?

COVID-19 is causing an unprecedented number of shoppers to order basic goods for delivery, and many have never before purchased these categories online. What is their experience? Will they be omni grocery shoppers in a post-COVID-19 world? The results from our report, How America Shops® in a COVID-19 Crisis.

Online Orders are at Record Levels. Is Omnichannel at its Level Best?

One major retailer. One online order. Three deliveries.

This was our recent experience ordering a few basic items from a national brick-based retailer that has long had an omnichannel strategy in place. Three deliveries in three boxes on three different days: It’s hardly cost efficient, but it hints at how manufacturers and retailers – even industry leaders – are scrambling to get their arms around the sudden, unprecedented demand for online order fulfillment.

Not only are more shoppers purchasing their goods online in order to comply with stay-at-home guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic, but a staggering number are now buying goods they never before purchased online. According to the results of our most recent report, How America Shops® in a COVID-19 Crisis, conducted last week:

  • 56% of all shoppers are buying groceries and health products online due expressly to COVID-19. (That’s double the rate of one year ago.)
  • Of those shoppers, 50% are buying their groceries online for the first time ever.

This instant demand for home delivery and curbside pickup is testing even those retailers that thought they had well-established omnichannel systems to deliver a rewarding, consistent shopping experience.

However, It’s Not Just a Retailer Challenge

Brands, too, will be held to account for the experiences shoppers encounter today, in-store and online. When shoppers expect their favorite brands to be available for online delivery at this heightened period of need, and then discover these items are “for in-store pickup only,” they are not likely to forget it.

It’s tough to meet omnichannel expectations in the midst of a global pandemic, and shoppers are understanding when retailers are straightforward about their limitations and make it clear they are doing their best. But this is not a time to over-promise; shopper impressions last longer during a time of crisis.

A Forward-Thinking Conclusion: Many Shoppers Will Remain Online

So who are these customers discovering online shopping for groceries? Based on the results of our COVID-19 research.

  • Men more than women are ordering groceries and health products online because of COVID-19 – 60% compared with 48%. (This begs the question: Have men taken over the task of finding the delivery window and chasing the online grocery order?)
  • Most of these online shoppers are younger, but 43% are boomers.
  • 62% of those with children are buying online, likely driven by forced home-schooling.
  • Two-thirds of those who make $100,000 or more are using online grocery delivery because of COVID-19, but 49% of households earning less than $50,000 are doing so, too.

You can learn more by reading our new report, How America Shops® in a COVID-19 Crisis, available at no charge here.

Other WSL Hot Topic reports include:

  • Sales Growth from City Shoppers
  • Free & Clean: Who’s Buying and What They Want Next
  • Shopping Without Boundaries: The Future Shopping World Created by Gen Z
  • Healthy First Shoppers are on a Spending Spree
  • Retailers that Win Shoppers’ Hearts – and Why
  • Which Brick Retailers are Winning at Omni Retail
  • Where Did the Trip Go? Spoiler: It’s Not All to Amazon

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