A major new piece of Google research has revealed a series of ways that consumer behaviour has shifted during the pandemic – giving online retailers and marketers invaluable insight into long term changes that will impact on search strategies going forwards.

The pandemic provoked an immediate change to how we search and shop, with forced bricks and mortar closures sending millions of shoppers online, Google’s research has set out to determine which of those changes were temporary and which new habits we can expect to be here to stay.

Finding #1: Shoppers will continue to experience brands online

Over the last 12 months are so, many consumers have come to expect experiences delivered digitally. From Zoom cooking classes to online workouts and live streamed concerts to social media lives, the majority of product discovery and brand engagement experiences now take place in the online realm.

Google’s experience indicates that even with the opening of physical storefronts, the majority of consumers expecting to shop online over the next six months is significantly higher than levels recorded pre-pandemic.

Just 26% of beauty consumers expect to mostly shop in store for example, compared with 51% who say they’ll mostly or always shop online. In the telecommunications sector, 69% of consumers say they will mostly shop online going forwards, compared with just 15% who say they will mostly shop in-store.

Finding #2: The older generation is embracing change

The move to online shopping hasn’t been restricted to younger generations. Consumers aged 35+ have also adapted their shopping habits and swapped their previous preference for in-store with a wholesale move towards online ordering.

This change can be seen across older generations up to 55+, leading Google to suggest that it may have a wider impact and force retails with bricks and mortar locations to reimagine the role of their high street locations. Rather than a destination purely for making sales, the physical shop might be a place for experiences or entertainment Google says, moving from a place of competition with online assets to one of complementing the ecommerce offering.

Finding #3: Consumers recognise the value of ecommerce post-pandemic

COVID-19 might have been the catalyst for a huge leap forwards in ecommerce adoption but, shoppers have realised it has more to offer than a pandemic stop gap. Google’s research shows that consumers favour online due to considerations such as convenience, the fact that it can be cheaper, that items can be delivered to the home and that it’s easier to find and purchase specific items.

Finding #4: Consumers are willing to try new brands

Whether due to disappointing experiences, budget considerations or simply having more time to browse, Google reports that consumers are now exploring additional options and trying new brands much more frequently than they did pre-pandemic. Over the last 12 months, a quarter of consumers are said to have tried a new brand or retailer, with many expecting to buy again from the same source within the next 12 months.

Searches for ‘the best…’have also spiked, suggesting consumers are stepping away from favoured brands and adopting a more experimental mindset.

Takeaways for Marketers

  • The shift to online has been overwhelming across generations and industry sectors during the pandemic meaning. All brands have an opportunity to engage with new-to-online consumers.
  • Consumers are shopping a willingness to experiment with purchases from new brands, increasing competition in the ‘messy middle’ of the sales funnel.
  • With so many behavioural changes, real time data is increasingly important to guide ad campaigns to success.
  • Physical spaces can complement the online offering, by serving up entertainment and experiences to those consumers happy to return to store.
  • Consumers value the convenience and value for money that online provides.
  • Generic search terms have increased in popularity.
  • Creative online experiences are a must to grab the attention of shoppers with more time than ever to search, shortlist and buy online.

We have published a series of articles charting the impact of the pandemic on ecommerce and digital marketing. For more on this topic, here’s a selection to read next:

As an agency which contractually guarantees your conversions, Adrac is exceptionally well placed to help you maximise the abundance of new opportunities presented by these changes to consumer behaviour. Contact us to find out more

Author Rebecca

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