In 2024, more retailers will take steps to protect customers from security issues, while consumers will change their essential, discretionary and Christmas shopping habits to get more bang for their buck amid the tightening cost of living.
These forecasts come from parcel delivery service CouriersPlease CEO Richard Thame who has more than 20 years of leadership experience for Fastway Couriers, Aramex couriers, McDonalds, Greater Union Cinemas and Thrifty Car Rental. At CouriersPlease, which is owned by Singapore Post, Mr Thame oversees a national network of more than 1200 couriers, 400-plus freight handlers and 18 major depots across 800+ franchise territories.
Mr Thame says: “Both retailers and consumers are already adjusting their habits in response to security issues, economic pressures and other influences. SMS scams and declining consumer trust is prompting retailers to find alternative communication methods, while economic pressures is seeing consumers shopping smarter and in line with sales calendars. Retailers have responded with longer, earlier sales events, a trend that could see Christmas shopping come even earlier this year. Subscriptions for essential items are also predicted to become more popular and widespread.
“More consumers understand the retail sales calendar and the types of discounts to expect and are holding off on spending until big sales events, while comparing prices between sales. They are being more economical: putting essential shopping items first, and they’re spreading out discretionary spending on things like Christmas gifts. Our depot was already extremely busy six weeks out from Christmas. In 2024, we will see more retailers responding to these emerging habits.”
Observing shopper and retailer trends as well as parcel volumes at CouriersPlease, Mr Thame offers six forecasts for this year.
- Retailers will ditch SMS delivery alerts amid rising scams. For the second year in a row, SMS is the most reported contact method scammers use. Mr Thame says this will prompt retailers to shift delivery tracking notifications back to emails and apps to protect and reassure consumers. He says the shift was in line with trends that had unfolded overseas. “It’s very rare for consumers in advanced overseas economies to get a tracking link via SMS,” he said. “Clickable links on mobile devices will die off over the year, and people will go back to receiving advice via emails to get links that are easily verified, then it will move to apps.”
- Subscription-based purchases for essential items will continue trending up. After soaring in popularity during pandemic lockdowns, automated subscriptions for items such as toilet paper, cleaning products, food and pet supplies will become more common and popular in 2024, regardless of a household’s economic vulnerability. Richard said the subscription model for essential items is relatively recession proof, with consumers appreciating the convenience of having these items arrive regularly on their doorstep with little-to-no effort. In 2023, consumers had reigned in spending on some discretionary items, with home furnishings, household equipment, alcohol and tobacco all seeing negative growth from July to September 2023.
- Parcel pick-up and drop-off (PUDO) networks will take off. Through pandemic lockdowns, parcels were predominantly delivered direct to consumers’ homes. While hybrid working arrangements are now widespread, an increasing proportion of people that have been working remotely every day are returning to workplaces for at least part of the week. These shoppers will turn to PUDO points – networks of independent retailers such as petrol stations and pharmacies that accept parcel drop-offs and pick-ups – to collect their parcels after hours, especially during peak industry periods when employers require staff to be on site.
- Consumers will align spending with retail sales calendars. Recent CouriersPlease research revealed that 91% of shoppers changed their buying habits in 2023, with more than half of those surveyed holding off on purchases until sales periods. This trend will grow as consumers become more familiar with retail sales calendars, while the rising cost of living puts them under more pressure to shop economically.
- Online Christmas shopping to peak earlier. Mr Thame says Christmas shopping will peak earlier, as more consumers plan ahead and rely on Click Frenzy and Black Friday sales to do their Christmas shopping event, making the two November sales bigger combined shopping event than Christmas. CouriersPlease’s own research found that half (52%) of online shoppers use sales events such as Black Friday and mid-season sales to do their Christmas shopping. The highest proportion was among under-50s (65% of all under-50s) and women (56% of all women). This year, CouriersPlease is expecting November to be its peak delivery month, not December.
Major sales events will start earlier and run longer. The days of brief ‘click frenzy’ sales are on the way out as retailers adjust to changing consumer habits. Mr Thame said stores such as Nick Scali had already extended its Black Friday sales across the full month of November, a move more retailers are likely to follow. CouriersPlease research showed that two in three shoppers held off spending in the weeks approaching Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.