The importance for brands of winning the PR battle during the coronavirus crisis can be seen from a new study that shows 54% of UK online shoppers will be less likely to spend money with brands that have behaved badly during the outbreak.
Some 53% are also currently spending less on fashion so it’s clear that brands need to avoid alienating these consumers in order to succeed post-crisis.
The new research, from global commerce services company PFS, involved a survey of 2,000 consumers and shows that UK shopping habits could be permanently altered following lockdown.
While the fashion sector, in particular, has suffered, it's significant that 60% of UK consumers say they’ve shopped more generally during the pandemic compared to normal circumstances. And 53% have made more purchases online. Importantly as well, as many as 77% of the shoppers plan to continue to purchase more online once the pandemic is over. That's even more of a reason for online and omnichannel retailers to make sure they behave impeccably during this time or risk not only losing unhappy existing customers but not winning new ones.
Criticism has surfaced regularly in the press so far. Some large online fashion retailers have been heavily criticized over weak social distancing measures in their distribution hubs. But other specialists have had a much kinder press in general. They include Net-A-Porter, Next, and Schuh that closed down their web operations temporarily in order to put safety measures in place.
Looking back at PFS’s figures for current consumer behaviour, it's interesting that of those who are buying more online now than they used to, 39% said they've been encouraged to buy products they hadn't considered before, especially footwear. And that 39% increases to 61% for Generation Z and 52% for Millennials.
But it's important that online retailers don't over-promise and under-deliver at present. Some 50% of shoppers have reported unsatisfactory online shopping experiences resulting in them being left disappointed at not being able to get something they wanted delivered. This rose to 75% of Gen Z and 63% of Millennials.
While many consumers have been focused on buying groceries, fashion shopping is still happening. As mentioned earlier though, more than half have cut down on their general fashion shopping due to not being able to go out and show off their new purchases. And 26% have been buying less clothing in particular online. Sone 18% have also cut back on cosmetics and luxury goods online.
Survey respondents also said that they feel greater loyalty towards brands that effectively communicate with them and are showing how they’re helping people during this time (52%). This increases to 54% of Baby Boomers and 59% of the Silent Generation.
A quarter of shoppers said they’d tried new e-tailers because of the lockdown and intend to continue to shop with them thanks to the good experience they’ve had during the crisis. This rises to 32% for Gen Z and 35% of Millennials.
And consumers remain quite demanding, despite the challenges at present. Expectations on delivery times have eased slightly, but consumers still expect their items to reach them quickly. Some 71% expect their items to reach them within a week (compared to 90% normally). And 14% expect their items to be delivered in no more than two days, compared to 29% normally.