Covid-19 has flipped the value proposition of omnichannel shopping for constrained consumers

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By: Nielsen

With few alternatives available during the widespread lockdowns earlier this year, e-commerce quickly became a go-to means-to-an-end for shop-needy consumers around the globe. Six months later, that early reliance on e-commerce has expanded into a fundamental dependence on still-evolving omnichannel shopping experiences.

The premise of omnichannel shopping certainly wasn’t borne out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the global health crisis has dramatically elevated consumers’ use of both on- and offline channels in tandem, whether for click-and-collect, contactless delivery or an array of other fulfillment options. And across consumer groups, online channels have become the most critical shopping resources for constrained consumers—those whose income and spending have been significantly curtailed or constrained due to unemployment, furloughing or other COVID-19-related challenges. Today, these consumers have matured into online super users, even if they occasionally opt to buy in traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

Following the extended stay-at-home periods, omnichannel shopping is becoming further entrenched as the future norm, with e-commerce growth eclipsing physical stores along the way. Nielsen’s Global New Shopper Normal Study found that only 9% of global consumers were regularly shopping online before the COVID-19 pandemic. But as restricted movement orders forced consumers indoors, online adoption skyrocketed, with 27% of global consumers starting to shop online for the first time. In May 2020, 44% of global consumers said they were shopping online each week, with 23% reporting shopping online multiple times each week. For constrained consumers, these indicators are even more significant: 31% are new to online shopping and 30% are shopping online multiple times per week, versus only 18% of insulated consumers. Twenty percent of constrained consumers are now regularly using online as their most frequented channel.


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