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New global study reveals post-pandemic consumer behaviors, expectations and concerns

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OMD releases its ‘Future of Commerce | The Why Behind the Buy’ report, which reveals the enduring appeal of in-store shopping

As the marketing industry worldwide continues its efforts to both map and navigate the post-pandemic commerce landscape, a new report from OMD and Omnicom Commerce Group (OCG) provides a deep dive into the ‘new retail normal’ emerging in the wake of the abrupt and extended break in daily habits forced by the 2020 lockdown.

Launched today, ‘Future of Commerce | The Why Behind the Buy’ looks at consumer behavior and expectations by market, life stage, channel and category to reveal nuances of the retail environment that are emerging in the post-pandemic marketplace, and how marketers can act upon them to drive brand growth.

The quantitative research encompasses over 4,000 respondents across six global markets (Australia, China, Germany, Spain, the UK and the USA) and was conducted via online surveys from May 11-27 2021. Respondents were asked about their attitudes toward pandemic-driven changes to their shopping habits, returning to shops in city centers and technology and data-sharing. They were also asked about their current shopping preferences and expectations for both online and offline shopping experiences.

The report defines and explores the three most important factors of modern commerce – experience, relevance and ease – defined in ‘The Why Behind The Buy’ as Wow, Right and Now.

Key findings

Despite the continued rise of e-commerce, shopping in physical stores still has strong appeal as a lifestyle activity that goes beyond needs fulfilment:

  • While 39% of respondents report shopping more frequently online during the pandemic – and 24% plan to continue to buy more online in the future – shoppers still appreciate the experience of shopping at physical retail, with nearly half of all respondents (49%) preferring the experience of shopping in-store and 47% enjoying browsing.

  • A third of respondents highlight the desire for increased health and safety measures, and 26% sited more contactless options as a priority for returning to in-store shopping.

Shoppers are channel fluid – there is no such thing as an online shopper v an offline shopper – and they want the same thing:

  • Moving forward, nearly half (47%) of consumers prefer an equal mix of buying products online and in-store.

  • Shoppers are looking for value, convenience and service when shopping on any channel, but they prioritize them differently.

  • Both are price-driven, but one of the primary factors for shopping in store is immediacy.

There is rich opportunity to redefine city-center shopping as a lifestyle, with consumers highlighting the desire for a rich combination of socializing, eating & drinking, events and experience:

  • Across all markets, more than half of respondents feel positively about returning, with the USA (55%) and China (56%) expressing the most confidence.

  • Shopping and dining are the top activities (49%) sited as a motivator for returning.

  • However, there is a significant generational divide in net comfort, with desire lowest among gen Z and boomers (35%) v millennials (46%) and gen X (42%).

There is a clear need to better communicate the benefits of technology and data and bridge the trust divide:

  • Even as 74% of respondents said AI technology can enhance the shopping experience, 44% still don’t trust brands’ motivations for using technology.

  • And 66% of consumers are not willing to share any data with at least one type of company.

Implications for marketers

“The research reconfirms the priority to put consumer behavior and expectations firmly at the forefront of commerce strategy and plan above siloed channels to deliver the seamless end-to-end experience shoppers clearly expect,” says Sophie Daranyi, chief executive of Omnicom Commerce Group and one of the co-authors of ‘Future of Commerce | The Why Behind the Buy’.

Report co-author and chief product development officer for OMD EMEA Jean-Paul Edwards adds: “The research also underscores the imperative for marketers in terms of educating consumers about the data value exchange. We need to consider how to elevate data communication to be clearer about the tangible benefits and to establish a relationship based on trust and respect.”

For a more detailed analysis of the research, and an expanded discussion around the implications and opportunities for marketers, download the full ‘Future of Commerce | The Why Behind the Buy’ report.