The study of the Research Center for Retail Management at the University of St.Gallen (IRM-HSG) shows: The importance of omni-channel management is increasing, retailers benefit from various sales and distribution channels. E-commerce is the clear winner over other sales channels in the pandemic.
The pandemic-related shop closings in March 2020 have had a major impact on retail. Numerous dealers were forced to set up new sales channels and improve existing ones within a very short space of time. “Omni-channel management” is what experts call the distribution of goods via various channels, be it digitally directly to the customer’s home or via ordering and collection at the entrance of the store during the pandemic. This diversified form of distribution has gained in importance during the pandemic.
Prof. Dr. Thomas Rudolph, Dr. Kristina Kleinlercher and Nora Kralle at the Research Center for Retail Management at the University of St.Gallen (IRM-HSG) have now examined the buying behavior of omni-channel buyers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. For the fourth time, after 2011, 2014 and 2017, over 3000 consumers were asked about their purchases from omni-channel retailers, who offer their products and services both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. The results of this study help companies from the retail, industrial and service sectors to understand changes in cross-channel buying behavior.
The pandemic has changed our buying behavior significantly
The survey took place six months after the first lockdown. At the time of the survey, in November 2020, the shops had been open again for almost six months. The results therefore suggest lasting changes in purchasing behavior. The following developments are noteworthy in this context:
- Corona has fundamentally changed shopping behavior. Around 40% of the consumers surveyed: Since the outbreak of the crisis, they have avoided stationary shops if possible and have products and services delivered to their homes.
- Omni-channel shopping, which uses offline and online touchpoints, has grown in popularity.
- In the pandemic, the online shop has replaced stationary business as the preferred shopping channel. In 2017, stationary retail was still the preferred shopping channel. 56% of the respondents bought in a stationary store at the time. At the end of 2020, around six months after the first lockdown, this preference fell to only 43%.
- Both the purchase frequency and the issue price have increased significantly in online shops. The corona pandemic has accelerated this trend.
- The smartphone is becoming increasingly important as a device for online shopping. In just four years, online orders via smartphones rose from 9% to 30%.
- Amazon was able to further expand its strong position as an important contact point in the customer journey in Germany and Austria. In many industries, Amazon is now one of the five most important contact points.
Online retail is the winner in the corona crisis
The results of the survey underline that online retail has won the crisis. However, they also show that omni-channel shopping, in which offline and online contact points are used, has grown in popularity: in 2021, 39 out of 100 respondents will be using at least one online (rating portal, newsletter, etc.) and one when shopping Offline contact point (catalog, newspapers, retail store, etc.). In 2014 it was 30 out of 100 subjects. Despite the pandemic, in which some shops were closed, this need to combine both shopping worlds has become more important.
New buying behavior: improved customer experience, higher spending
Consumers who only use one contact point rate the customer experience with 3.65 on a 7-point scale. Consumers who use more than 7 contact points, on the other hand, rate the customer experience with an average of 4.11. Not only the perceived customer experience, but also the average issue amount increases with the number of contact points used. Click & Collect, i.e. the ability to order products online and pick them up in brick-and-mortar stores, also offers retailers considerable potential for increasing sales: Consumers who use Click & Collect in Switzerland, compared to pure online shoppers, give 100% more out. The data collection was financially supported by Handelsverband.Swiss, Boost Group AG, Retail Capital Partners and SAP.
Also read: Consumer behavior after Corona: 6 predictions about convenience, online time and local purchases.