How Retail Has Changed Over 90 Days of COVID-19

The new reality of a pandemic altered retail landscape has given rise to significant shifts in consumer behavior and retail operations. This has also created new opportunities for retailers to reconsider their omnichannel offerings and meet the customer where they are.

By examining survey response data over 90 days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bizrate Insights consumer tracking data highlights 3 significant trends to watch in this unprecedented time.

Product shortages have improved significantly

A rush of panic buying at the onset of the pandemic created unprecedented demand, leading to empty store shelves and shortages of essential products including toilet paper and flour. Supply chains were pushed to their limits as many shoppers bought more than they needed.

These shortages were at their worst in April, with only 29% of consumers reporting that all the products they were shopping for were available. Fortunately, by July, that percentage had substantially increased, rising to 56% of all consumers reporting that they were able to find everything they need.

Product availability when grocery shopping: April vs. July

Product availability during COVID-19, April to July

Source: Bizrate Insights Flash Survey

This is a sign that supply chains are adapting to the new normal of increased direct-to-consumer demand. It could also signify that consumers have adjusted their buying habits to only items that are easier to find.

Consumers have largely shifted to eCommerce

In July, 70% of consumers reported that they purchased items online because they felt safer doing so. This is an increase of 15% since the early days of the pandemic in April, indicating that even as lockdown orders lift, consumers are largely staying cautious.

Why consumers purchase online: April vs. July

Why shoppers buy online, April vs. July

<Source: Bizrate Insights Survey

This shift to eCommerce has changed entire sectors of the retail industry, like grocery. It also indicates an upcoming shift in consumer behavior as shoppers become more accustomed to making their purchases online.

BOPIS or curbside pickup is now a necessity for all retailers

with minimal contact has been steadily increasing mid-April, only 41% of consumers had used BOPIS or curbside pickup as a fulfillment option over a 30-day period. By mid-July, that has increased to 62% of shoppers.

Some of the reliance on curbside/BOPIS is out of necessity, as in-store shopping has been restricted. However, the increased usage even as many states reopen indicates that many customers are continuing to rely on it.

What the continued crisis means for retailers

In a post-pandemic retail world, consumers are most focused on getting the products they need as quickly as possible, with minimal contact. This will change many core elements of traditional customer experience, such as how often employees and shoppers interact with one another.

Additionally, certain pain points – like long checkout lines – may go from a minor source of frustration to being unacceptable to many shoppers. For more information on how to prepare for this new retail environment, download our infographic on The Top 5 Ways COVID-19 is Changing Retail.