Online purchases soar during pandemic

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Monash Business School’s Australian Consumer and Retail Studies (ACRS) has released research confirming that e-commerce spending habits surged during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

The research by ACRS shows just how popular and commonplace e-commerce has become, with the majority of Australians (84%) purchasing online in the last three months and over a third (37%) of these shoppers making weekly online purchases.

According to the ACRS half (50%) 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%).

What we bought 

Of the purchases made, clothing, footwear and accessory buys accounted for more than half of (56%) of all online purchases.

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

Compared to males, female shoppers purchased more clothing, footwear and accessories, household and personal care goods according to the research.

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%) of Australian shoppers using physical stores as their main channel for non-grocery retail purchases, while just under one-third (32%) used online methods,” says Stephanie Atto, Principal Research Consultant at the ACRS.

“As a result of Covid-19 lockdowns and pandemic-related restrictions, online became the main non-grocery retail channel, with almost two-thirds (64%) 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% prefer physical stores as their preferred main channel, while the other 50% now prefer online channels.”

Shippings preferences 

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

As a result, standard delivery (3-plus days) options were by far the most frequently used method to deliver goods purchased online, with two-thirds (65%) selecting this method most often.

However, in comparison, just 51% of UK shoppers and 52% of US shoppers selected this method.

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

Where on the web

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

Two-thirds (64%) 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,” says Ms Atto.

For more information and to read the full article, please visit Monash Business School’s Impact.