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Adam Chandler
Senior Content Strategist, Yotpo
June 16th, 2021

Consumer Shopping Behavior Shifts Again as Pandemic Wanes

After more than a year of shopping online, consumers are longing for VIP treatment, new experiences, and direct and immediate communications from brands.

Table Of Contents

With quarantine restrictions easing in the US, Americans are ready to make up for time lost to the pandemic. And as we found in a May 2021 survey of 1000 consumers, that goes for retail especially, with 79% of Americans saying they are now planning to shop more in the coming months.

Those weren’t the only surprising insights we discovered. We also took a look at how consumers plan to shop, what kind of relationships they prefer to have with their favorite brands, and which pandemic behaviors may become permanent.

Despite the perception that most customers will soon rush out to malls and physical stores, not everyone will be shopping in person when they begin their post-pandemic sprees. Owing to new habits forged during the pandemic, only 10% of consumers plan to primarily shop at physical stores, while 37% say they are going to stick to shopping mostly online. Slightly more than half (53%) plan to do a mix of in-store and online shopping over the next year.

With 90% of shoppers planning on making purchases online over the next year, here’s how they will do it. Slightly more people (50%) will browse and shop using their mobile phones while 47% will use their desktop or laptops.

The New Ways That Shoppers and Brands Talk to Each Other

Another key behavior that’s changed since early last year is the way shoppers prefer to interact with brands, especially when it comes to emerging channels like SMS or text messaging.

Since June 2020, when we last asked consumers about their SMS preferences, the number of shoppers who have signed up to receive text messages from brands has increased by 27%, with 3 in 4 (75%) shoppers now having signed up to receive text messages from brands. Similarly, the number of shoppers who want to be able to text back and forth with their favorite brands to ask questions has increased by 31%, with more than 8 in 10 shoppers wanting this level of access. Additionally, the number of shoppers who are open to receiving coupons, discounts and promotional offers from brands via text has increased by 31%, with 85% eager to have their phones buzz with the exclusive news of a good deal.

For those shoppers that decide to opt-in to receive text messages from a brand, the types of messages they want the most include news of sales and exclusive offers (69%), updates about their order status (58%), and new product announcements (42%). Capitalizing on these preferences shrewdly is extremely important for brands, with 56% of shoppers saying that receiving texts too often will cause them to opt-out.

And, while embracing SMS as a key communication channel with shoppers is extremely important, email remains a big part of the equation. 50% of shoppers prefer brands to use a hybrid approach with communication, opting for both email and text messaging. When it comes to time-sensitive promotions, 45% of shoppers say that email is their preferred way to be contacted by a brand, followed by text messages (35%), and then social media (16%).

Shoppers Crave New Experiences When Shopping Online

With more people shopping online than ever before, expectations have changed as well — from general experiences and customer service to what it means to be a brand VIP.

When it comes to the new experiences shoppers generally want from brands, there is a clear winner: Same-day door-to-door delivery. 28% of shoppers want this service most of all, followed by virtual “try-on” tools (21%) and instant alerts/check-in capabilities as they enter a brand’s physical store (13%).

But this is just the beginning. Zoom fatigue or not, when shoppers were asked about the possibility of live video interactions with a brand, more than 50% of respondents expressed enthusiasm. The top three video interactions shoppers said they would find most valuable include dealing with customer service issues (58%), working with a personal shopper or getting a shopping consultation (51%), and live demos of products (50%).

Additionally, shoppers have grown to prefer direct engagement with their favorite brands with 68% said they would buy directly from brands last holiday season. But more than just introduce new products, shoppers would like to see their favorite brands team up for collaborations. 60% of shoppers want to see brands offer non-subscription-based product bundles or kits for purchase, followed by co-branded special events, such as new product reveals or celebrity guest panels (47%), and nearly half (49%) are interested in co-branded subscription boxes (49%).

The Rise of the VIP Shopper

Today’s shoppers want more than just to feel like they are part of a community. They want unique experiences and elevated treatment from brands that make them feel special and important. Simply put, they want to be VIPs.

83% of shoppers say that if their favorite brands had a VIP program, they would join it. Additionally, 64% of shoppers said they are willing to pay a fee to be part of a brand’s VIP program for perks like personalized experiences, free products, concierge service, and more.

And, what does it take to really feel like a VIP when shoppers are part of these programs? 69% of shoppers who belong to VIP programs say that the brand actually makes them feel like a VIP, and they have expectations of the experiences that those programs should provide.

The most popular experiences that shoppers want as part of the VIP programs they join are exclusive discounts (66%), free products (58%), surprise gifts (56%), the ability to sample and provide feedback on products that aren’t yet commercially available (51%), and rewards that are personalized to them (50%).

The New Normal Ahead

While it’s impossible to predict if brands will face any other unexpected curveballs as the country begins a new normal, what we do know is that the fundamentals that guided pre-pandemic playbooks have drastically changed in the past year.

Shoppers are moving online in pursuit of relationships with brands that are more personalized and more rewarding. Whether it’s SMS or loyalty programs, consumers are also looking to connect to their favorite brands in ways that seemed niche and revolutionary just two years ago. With huge opportunities ahead, it’s critical that forward-thinking brands pay attention to the new normal that’s revealing itself before our very eyes.

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