E-commerce preferred during pandemic

Australians spent big online during the pandemic, but it was physical retailer websites that outperformed online-only websites, finds new research by Monash Business School’s Australian Consumer and Retail Studies (ACRS).

According to the study, the “majority” of Australians (84% of respondents) purchased online in the last three months. Over a third (37%) of these shoppers made weekly online purchases.

Half of the online shoppers reported that they had made more online purchases since the beginning of the pandemic, compared to prior. Only a small number had made less (4%).

Clothing, footwear and accessory purchases 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%). 

As e-commerce boomed during the pandemic, says ACRS, Australians turned to physical retailer websites to make the “majority” of their online purchases. 

Two-thirds (64%) of respondents made a purchase from the websites of physical retailers in the past three months.

How retail adapted

To understand how retail adapted during Covid-19, ACRS surveyed shoppers and interviewed retailers throughout the month of September 2021.

The survey collected feedback from 1609 shoppers across Australia (1002), the UK (301) and the US (306). It highlighted the latest retail trends influenced by Covid-19.

“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 ACRS Principal Research Consultant Stephanie Atto.  

“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.”

Shipping methods

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

As a result, standard delivery (three-plus days) options were by far the most frequently used method to deliver goods purchased online, with two-thirds of the respondents (65%) selecting this method most often. In comparison, 51% of UK respondents and 52% of US respondents selected this method. 

UK and US respondents 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 respondents (11% and 12%, respectively).

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