Nobody thought that life would look this different as we started 2020. As a digital agency we have seen the use of technology by people and businesses leap forward during lockdown, accelerating remote working, e-learning, e-commerce, and online social connections. We have seen people spending more time online than ever before and turning to their smartphones to explore, research, and plan their purchases — both online and in the real world.

We all know that the High Street is having an incredibly difficult time right now. But some retailers are finding that maximising their presence online can help them reach potential customers who do want to buy in person. Connecting offline and online retail experiences has never been more important.

Buying behaviours have changed

Buying behaviours have changed dramatically in the last six months and many of those behaviours are likely to stick. People that are using local shops are planning their visits to stores more carefully, leading to a spike in interest for real-time information. People care about what’s in stock, and they want to know what time a shop opens and closes and whether a shop offers click and collect. Everyone needs reassurance that they’ll find what they’re looking for before they leave home.

Shopping locally has also become even more important: according to Google, searches containing “available near me” have more than doubled globally.

New Google research shows the pandemic has made people more flexible about whether they buy online or offline. According to their research, seventy-three percent now describe themselves as channel agnostic, compared with 65% before the global health crisis. While the pandemic has accelerated digital adoption and online shopping sales are growing, new research from Euromonitor found that it is expected that 78% of purchases will still be made in stores by 2024.

Connecting with customers online or on the High Street

The research by Google highlights why having an online shopping presence as well as a physical shop is more important than ever.

It is the ability to drive growth and offer flexibility to connect with your customers wherever they are, whether that is online or on the High Street. It is about looking at more ways to provide contact-free transactions and service delivery with your customers – through things like:-

  • Contact-free purchases or check-ins
  • Displaying live inventory and availability online
  • Providing Click and Collect or “pick-up later” options
  • Displaying accurate opening times on Google My Business and the rest of your digital channels

There is no doubt that there will be challenging times ahead. However, over the last six months we have seen countless examples of business owners moving more of their business online and trying e-commerce for the first time. They are prepared to be innovative and respond to the shifting needs of consumers. For example, who would have thought Fish & Chip shops would be accepting orders online and offering click and collect or pubs would be using Test and trace.

The retail environment will continue to evolve at a rapid pace, and thankfully, there are a wealth of online shopping marketing tools and advertising options that can help drive recovery. Whilst none of us know what the rest of 2020 and 2021 will bring, I do know the use of technology will help people and businesses prepare for what’s next.

If you would like to discuss how your business can use digital to prepare for changing customer behaviour then please get in touch.