Marketing: Five ways COVID-19 will change how we shop

How COVID-19 will change the way we shop

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we buy things.

With so many people staying home, and most brick and mortar stores closed, we've been shopping less overall. 

But when we do shop, it's been increasingly from our computers, tablets and phones. 

In March, the most recent month with available information, Canadian retail e-commerce sales totalled $2.2 billion, up 40.4 percent from a year ago, Statistics Canada said. 

That was despite a 10 percent drop in retail sales, overall.  

Although stores are reopening as lockdowns ease up, industry experts say we won't go back to our old buying habits – even after the pandemic ends and the economy improves. 

Here are some lasting changes we'll see after COVID-19:

Your grandparents will be online shopping: While Gen Z and Millennials were already comfortable with online shopping, the pandemic has pushed Gen X and Baby Boomers to make the switch, writes Alex Rolfe at Payments, Cards and Mobile, an industry website. 

Retailers will have to try harder: A surge in online shopping will bring increased competition, Rolfe says. That means retailers will have to give you a better user experience to keep you from going to another site. At the very least, sites will have to be easy to use. They'll also have to let you check out quickly without making you punch in your credit card information every time you buy something.

Stores won't disappear, but they'll change: Physical stores will become places where you see samples of products, get advice and pick up and return online orders. Why not just get things delivered to your house? If you're back in the office, picking up at a store means you don't have to worry about being home for an online delivery. Stores might be smaller, but they'll still matter, even to retailers that started out online. Online brands like Warby Parker, Bonobos and Casper eventually opened physical locations to broaden their reach.

Payment will be contactless: Even when the pandemic ends, many of us still won't want to touch keypads, writes Michelle Evans at Forbes. That could mean that more retailers will offer contactless options. For instance, Mastercard has raised the limits for contactless payments in Europe, and Walmart made self-checkout stations contactless. Rolfe predicts an increase in digital payment methods, including e-wallets, mobile payment apps, bank transfers and QR codes. The trend was already happening, but the pandemic will accelerate it. 

We'll buy a lot from Amazon: In April, U.S. consumer spending on Amazon was up more than 85 percent from a year ago, according to Facteus, a financial research site. To keep up with demand during the pandemic, Amazon hired 175,000 new employees. While spending at Amazon has slowed slightly as more stores have reopened, experts expect the surge to continue. 

 

Sources:

  • The Daily: Retail trade, March 2020 (Statistics Canada)
  • How the global COVID-19 pandemic changed payments (Alex Rolfe, Payments, Cards and Mobile)
  • Seven predictions for how COVID-19 will change retail in the future (Michelle Evans, Forbes)
  • How COVID-19 will change the way we shop (Knowledge@Wharton)
  • Insights on changing consumer spending (Facteus)