Many businesses in 2020 set towering goals to grow exponentially. Though, with the COVID-19 global pandemic, stores everywhere began to shutter, also delaying many product launches. However, innovative retailers and brands quickly dodged obstacles around them and pushed through the chaos. Global consumers also scurried overnight adjusting to this surrealistic scenario—buying groceries and other products in bulk. Consumers also built home offices to work from, then purchased new wardrobes for Zoom and Google Chat meetings. They ultimately figured out what they needed and how to procure it.

The demographics-based partition in commerce has broadened.

While it’s impossible to cater to the individual whims of your physical store and website shoppers—you can easily cater to the majority. COVID-19 impacted geographic areas differently, so consumers approached shopping as best they could.

Being quite open minded, over 75% of U.S. shoppers read reviews. While there is a modest inclination to shop online for the upcoming year instead of onsite, with the right precautions, U.S. shoppers are willing to shop in-store. Over 60% of consumers are open to new products, which is a good thing considering the U.S. also saw the greatest product shortages due to the pandemic. To help them decide on new products, over half want a mix of UGC (User-Generated Content) and professional photo images on product pages.

Private label is an active choice—not an inadvertent purchase.

For years consumers have purchased well-known name-brand products. Generic label products were often viewed as cheaper, lower quality choices. Today though, generic can be the same product as the name-brand. Wholesalers and retailers such as Costco and Meijer’s carry private label products manufactured by big names and rebranded more economically as their own.

Through change in perception and offerings, private label products have become desired instead of mere afterthoughts. Retailers who have stepped into the private label world are taking a strategic step, giving some of their suppliers a scramble for their money. 2-in-3 shoppers now believe that store brands are just as high quality as name-brands. On top of customer perception, private label products benefit the retailers selling them. Profit margins are higher, operating costs are lower, and consumer support is more stable.

Half of the global population is using at least one social media platform.

Social media marketing

Social media is a marketing and selling tool

Early social media platforms such as AOL’s AIM, MySpace, and others have set the stage for almost half of the global population using at least one social media platform, and not just for keeping in touch with friends. Social media now presents itself as a marketing and selling tool for brands and retailers. Facebook seems to be the most dominant platform where consumers are most likely to give brands a follow, with Instagram and YouTube bringing up the rear.

Part of the way brands and retailers can make buying on social media easy is by tagging the product itself in a post. A great number of shoppers say this makes them more likely to click, and then buy on a social post. When shopping on a brand or retailer’s website, a substantial number of consumers also won’t purchase if there isn’t UGC or good visuals on the product page. So, it’s time to take what customers share with you on social media and go big with it.

Digital comes first now, brick-and-mortar second.

Because of the pandemic, 60% of global shoppers have adjusted how often they’re shopping in-store. In the U.S. where closings and lockdowns have been implemented numerous times, shoppers are more likely to avoid going in-store at all.

Man shopping blog Image

47% browse in-store, buy in-store

Almost 40% of consumers are still shopping online weekly—up from a pre-pandemic 28%. And with more commerce happening from the comfort of homes, 48% of consumers are reading reviews more now than ever before. While already on the rise, the pandemic has accelerated digital’s direction. Online shopping went from a nice option available to a necessity in 2020 and has become second nature to many now. Interestingly, online is also preferred by consumers 44-years-old and younger.

However, consumers aren’t willing to give up brick-and-mortar shopping yet. Slightly over half of them would choose online shopping over in-store for the future. With that in mind, retailers and brands need to be willing to cater to both preferences. Since the start of the pandemic, 47% of shoppers said browse in-store, buy in-store was their most common method of buying, followed by 43% saying they’d browse and buy on a website with home delivery. Curbside pickup was most likely to be favored by U.S. consumers or those 34-years-old or younger. This suggests that while older consumers have adapted to our new normal, they’re eager to return to their former comfort level. Consumers want you to have an omnichannel presence and find ways to continue innovating in-store as you ride the crucial growth wave of online sales.

Get innovative to replace in-person awareness and relationship building.

Even for consumers heading in-store, there’s a lot less browsing and discovery now. People are quick to get in and out. Scrolling endlessly through digital catalogs can lead to decision burnout, giving a new definition to shop till you drop. Almost half of consumers say what they love most about an in-store shopping experience is the ability to see, touch, and try out products, followed by the instant pleasure of taking home their purchases. And half of them say they feel most connected to brands they love by shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, followed by leaving reviews.

Another way to champion connection with consumers is through running social media campaigns. Develop a branded hashtag to foster communication with your customers. Ask them to show how they use your products. Repost their content on your social media profiles and on your website.

You know your customers best.

Influencer with shoes

56% of shoppers willing to fill out a preference survey

Give them what they’ll appreciate and need to feel connected to you. And if you’re not sure, ask. With 56% of shoppers willing to fill out a

preference survey from a brand, you’ll quickly find most answers you need.

While it’s easy to unimagine 2020 and hope for better in 2021, don’t write off the start of the new decade. While quite unexpected in the way that it happened, global retail grew—big time. Consumers are eager for connection from their favorite brands and retailers. That couldn’t be truer now. Businesses must lean into the direction retail is headed. Know your customer and provide them with products and brands they want. Let social media content work for you where your customers are. They also want to build relationships with you. Make it your job to lay the foundation of that relationship. Don’t write off in-store shopping yet but get ready to forge ahead with digital. Do these things, and your business will grow!