The Switch to Online Shopping is Likely to Continue Even After the Pandemic
When we all had to stay indoors and keep safe the first time, shopping was the last thing on our minds – apart from food shopping which was something of a disaster with limited supplies (remember the toilet paper issue?) and far too few delivery slots for the sudden upsurge of those who wanted them.
Then things began to change.
As the weeks turned into months and boredom really began to set in, the world of online shopping became a way to alleviate that boredom and even those who had never contemplated online shopping before (perhaps due to a lack of knowledge on how it all worked, or a worry about the impact it would have on the high street, or fear of security issues) tried it out.
So what does this all mean for the future? Even after the pandemic, what online shopping habits are going to stick around?
In the past, before COVID-19, before lockdown, before these changes happened to us all, online shopping was about, for many people at least, buying items that weren’t available in the shops. It was about buying items that needed to be delivered, that it was just too difficult to track down in a shopping centre or high street. Bespoke. Artisanal. Different. These were the watchwords.
The realization that we can now get anything sent direct.
And then lockdown and shortages and we realized that we could buy anything we wanted online and have it delivered quickly, often the next day and in some cases on the same day, just hours after we’d clicked ‘checkout’. Items like coffee, paper, toothpaste, dishwasher tablets, and other household items could be found.
You could go to an online pharmacy and organize a prescription or buy over-the-counter medication. You could find an online bookshop and browse the titles and grab the next bestseller. You could even stream movies instead of going to the cinema.
The fact that many people have woken up to the brave new world of buying items they would normally stop off at the supermarket to grab on their way home from work.
Although, of course, this is not a new thing, it’s simply that more people have realised it’s possible) is not going away any time soon. It’s far too convenient to order something and have it delivered, especially when many online stores even offer free delivery.
Best of both worlds
Another habit that is sure to stay when it comes to online shopping is the idea of click and collect. In case you haven’t tried it yourself yet, this is the process of ordering something online and then heading out to pick it up from the shop.
There is minimal contact, no waiting, and, if you’re not going to be at home for a delivery, or the delivery times are longer than will work for you (that is, you need the item today, not later in the week), you’ve got it when you want it.
Click and collect is the ideal midway point between shopping in the old way and buying everything exclusively online, and for people who want to support their local shops, it works out very well indeed. Anyone from independent local stores to big supermarket chains can implement the idea, and a lot of people are falling in love with it.
Click and collect means that you can take your time, you can browse the website (something that you’ll certainly be missing if you enjoy going shopping just for fun), and then it’s a question of filling in a form or making a phone call (again, it caters to everyone), making a payment and making sure you remember to pick up whatever it is you bought. Fantastic.
Trying New Brands
There is something about the fact that we have the world wide web in all its glory to choose items from that seems to give people a feeling of freedom, and this translates into trying new brands. In fact, around a third of all online shoppers have, during the lockdown, experimented with their usual brands.
Initially, this may well have been something to do with supply chain problems and distribution issues, causing this experimentation to be more necessary than anything else, but as time went on the idea seems to have appealed more.
This is interesting, and it means that smaller online stores now stand much more of a chance compared to the larger ones that dominated the online space in the past. And since many high street stores are now turning to the internet to boost their sales, it means that we won’t lose them as we feared we might; we’ll just see them in a different way.