AGI – The pandemic has had a devastating effect on retail and a revolutionary effect on ecommerce. But will these changes in buying behavior be permanent? According to new edition of the research of Netcomm (the Italian digital commerce Consortium born in 2005 which brings together over 450 companies) in collaboration with MagNews there are two main transformations: the birth of five new types of buyers and the weight assumed by online reviews.
From the research, which compares current behaviors with those adopted by consumers shortly before the outbreak of the pandemic (January 2020) in three sectors – Fashion (clothing and accessories), Food (food and wine) e Personal Care (beauty, health and personal care), it emerges that the Fashion sector is the one most permeated by digital and evolving channels; while in the other two a hybrid aspect prevails in which digital behaviors are strongly integrated with shopping experiences in the shop.
Five types of consumer
The research made it possible to identify theevolution of consumer groups distinguishing them into five types:
He is mainly young and resident in Central / Southern Italy, he buys both online and in the store without preferences, for medium amounts. He prefers relationship and direct exchange but during the pandemic he had to compensate some of the physical contact points with those mediated by digital channels (Social, influencers, reviews);
She is a woman, over 45, with low technological equipment and low educational qualifications, she buys online for medium-low amounts
He is very young and over 65, he lives in medium-small towns in Northern Italy, he prefers to buy in trusted shops for small amounts. They were forced by the pandemic to abandon the exclusive choice of the physical point and convert to the adoption of new behaviors by becoming Omnichannel;
Middle-aged man or woman who lives in large centers, well educated and who has an excellent technological equipment. His shopping experience is divided between online and offline moments. During the period of the pandemic, some consumers of this cluster continued to move easily between the different solutions and opportunities offered by omnichannel, albeit with various limitations, but a significant part during the health emergency and still has converted their habits towards contact points and online channels, becoming more and more entrenched digital consumers;
Mostly men in their thirties and / or over 55 who live in large centers, with an excellent level of education and a good technological equipment. His shopping experience is very complex and is mainly online. This is a high value customer who often repurchases. The relevance of this group has increased considerably in the last year, certainly due to the amplifying effect that the pandemic has generated towards purchasing behavior that was already linked to the digital context.
The research shows that from 2020 to 2021 there was a transfer of all-digital purchasing behavior (embodied by the “Digital Consumer “) in all the categories analyzed
- From 2% to 12.9% in fashion purchases;
- From 2% to 9.9% in purchases in the Food sector;
- From 2% to 12.8% in purchases in the Personal Care sector.
“The purchasing behavior of Italian consumers to date is much more oriented to the use of digital contact points with signs and brands, a phenomenon evidently accentuated by the current pandemic but at the same time identifying a confidence and a pleasure in using the relationship methods made available by digital technology that had already been in place for some time “he declares Roberto Liscia, President of Netcomm. “Considering the high satisfaction that consumers have been declaring for years in purchasing online, it is conceivable that the role of digital contact points within the various purchase paths undertaken by Italians will remain high and that this will have an increasingly greater impact evident in the need for businesses to offer interconnected relationship and shopping experiences with their customers “.
The online reviews then, they are a tool considered very important by consumers to guide their purchasing choices: from 2020 to 2021 they recorded a significant growth of 6-8 percentage points in all three categories analyzed.
Within Fashion consumers said they carry almost 2 out of 3 purchases online. They continue to be the points of contact that integrate the digital experience with the physical one are relevant, as a possibility to make the return online, see / try the product and make the return in the store. It is a very concentrated online market (71% of purchases are made at the top ten retailers). Great natively digital protagonists have forever changed the traditional path of the user, combining the flexibility of some effective offline mechanisms (such as the possibility of trying on a garment and making a free return), with the competitiveness of prices (due to the absence of outlets and related costs) and the huge assortment and variety of garments, typical of online brands.
The scope Food is a sector in which just under half of the purchases are made online. The journey often starts from an offline touchpoint, but there is aimportant evolution between physical and digital channels aimed at stronger customer loyalty: moments such as tasting, analyzing the quality of raw materials and provenance are important moments for conversion and are now integrated with digital direct marketing services (mainly email O notifications) that they report when a product becomes available again O remind the consumer of a good in which he had previously expressed an interest.
Also there communication via social is a customer relationship tool whose use has intensified during the pandemic. The online market of food and wine products is rather concentrated: 56% of purchases are made at the top ten retailers.
That of the Personal Care it is a sector that, together with the food and wine sector, continues to be strongly connected to the offline sphere, with less than half of the purchases made online. From the research they emerge surprising data: are the actions and the more traditional marketing tools (TV advertising, discount coupons and cash payments) to represent the highlights.
Interaction with a professional and word of mouth are fundamental physical moments for the user who must purchase a personal care product. The search moves online when buyers want to evaluate alternatives that are cheaper or closer to their needs.
It is about a thick path linked to a need to be met quickly: for this reason it is born offline, develops online and often ends in a physical store.
The online market of health and wellness products is very concentrated: 70% of purchases are made at the top ten retailers (among the main used are online pharmacy, i.e. retailers authorized to sell drugs online).
What will it be like after?
It is conceivable that, once the health emergency returns, the use of digital channels as a whole will record a slight decline in the face of a willingness of consumers to return to living the consumer experiences offered by physical channels, but the percentage of consumers who continue to adopt digital touchpoints within their purchasing journeys will remain higher than in the pre-pandemic period, also in the light ofhigh satisfaction that online experiences offer to customers (ranking of 8.5 in September 2020 on a scale of 1 to 10).