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Study: COVID-19 accelerates consumer pivot to digital shopping

shopper looking at shopping cart in cloud

Customers are increasing their appetite for omnichannel commerce as the pandemic continues.

According to a new global survey of more than 2,500 consumers from Periscope by McKinsey, U.S. respondents want a more digitally-focused shopping experience in response to COVID-19. Thirty percent of U.S. respondents would like to see retailers offer mobile payments in the near future, followed by mobile app orders (28%) and apps to scan barcodes (25%).

In the U.S., e-commerce activity was up more than 30% from the beginning of March through mid-April 2020, compared to the same period the previous year. In all four countries surveyed. Categories with the biggest uptick were apparel, children's products, beauty, and grocery. 

In addition, 56% of U.S. respondents said informative online product descriptions and clear product images are important, up 13% from pre-pandemic levels. Sixty-five percent say being able to find what they're looking for quickly and easily is important, up 11% from before COVID-19.

The study also indicates loyalty is particularly vulnerable in the U.S., where 46% of respondents have switched at least one brand during the pandemic. Top reasons include competitive pricing (51%) and finding a more “caring” brand that supports employees with initiatives such as increasing wages, giving extra sick leave or paying for lost wages (27%).

"While disruption and fierce competition are certainly nothing new for retailers, the pace and intensity of COVID-19-related change and their effect on consumers is unprecedented," said Brian Ruwadi, senior partner and global leader of Periscope by McKinsey. "This is a pivotal time where we're seeing not only changing loyalties and a shifting leaderboard, but an opportunity to really connect with consumers in new ways as they reformulate their habits and decision journeys. As retail leaders plot how they will bounce back, they also need to look beyond the immediate challenges and issues. In parallel to quickly recovering revenue, it is critical to engage in long-term planning and accelerate future growth."

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