Online purchases prove popular in pandemic

Image credit: Unsplash - Pickawood

Aussies spent big online during the pandemic, but it was physical retailer websites that outperformed online-only websites, a new report by Monash University researchers has found.

Research by Monash Business School’s Australian Consumer and Retail Studies (ACRS) confirmed what we already assumed: eCommerce spending habits surged during lockdowns.

ACRS research shows just how popular and commonplace eCommerce has become, with the majority of Australians (84 per cent) purchasing online in the last three months and over a third (37 per cent) of these shoppers making weekly online purchases.

Half (50 per cent) of online shoppers reported that they had made more online purchases since the beginning of the pandemic, compared to prior, while only a small number had made less (4 per cent).

Despite shoppers having nowhere to show off their new items, clothing, footwear and accessory purchases accounted for more than half of (56 per cent) of all online purchases.

This was ahead of grocery products (41 per cent), household goods like homewares and hardware (33 per cent) and personal care goods such as cosmetics and baby care (32 per cent).

It was female shoppers who purchased more clothing, footwear and accessories, household and personal care goods compared to males.

To understand how retail adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers in the ACRS surveyed shoppers and interviewed retailers throughout the month of September 2021.

The survey collected feedback from 1,609 shoppers across Australia (1,002), the United Kingdom (301) and the United States of America (306) and highlighted the latest retail trends influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Prior to the pandemic, there was a clear divide amongst shoppers over physical versus online shopping experiences, with over two-thirds (68 per cent) of Australian shoppers using physical stores as their main channel for non-grocery retail purchases, while just under one-third (32 per cent) used online methods,” Stephanie Atto, Principal Research Consultant at the ACRS, said.

“As a result of COVID-19 lockdowns and pandemic-related restrictions, online became the main non-grocery retail channel, with almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of Australian shoppers using online methods as their main channel for non-grocery retail purchases.

“But what is most interesting is that Australians are now equally divided on their preference for bricks-and-mortar versus online as their preferred main channel - 50 per cent prefer physical stores as their preferred main channel, while the other 50 per cent now prefer online channels.”

Despite shipping delays and supply chain disruptions, Australian consumers opted for free shipping over fast shipping.

As a result, standard delivery (3+ days) options were by far the most frequently used method to deliver goods purchased online, with two-thirds (65 per cent) selecting this method most often. However, in comparison, just 51 per cent of UK shoppers and 52 per cent of US shoppers selected this method.

UK and US shoppers were more inclined to select same-day delivery (19 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively) and express (1-2 days) delivery (22 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively) more frequently than Australian shoppers (11 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively).

As eCommerce boomed during the pandemic, Aussie shoppers turned to physical retailer websites to make the majority of their online purchases.

Two-thirds (64 per cent) of Australian online shoppers made a purchase from the websites of physical retailers in the past three months. These websites were also most frequently used for product information such as colour, size, measurements, and features.

“With consumers using online channels more than ever before, it is now increasingly important that retailers provide shoppers with seamless omnichannel experiences to meet their increasing online expectations.

“As retailers focus on improving their digital integration in the retail experience, adding personalised touches will help retailers continue to connect with their customers in a deeper way,” said Ms Atto.

To read the full article, please visit Monash Business School’s Impact.

Hande Cater
Monash University
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