The pandemic dramatically changed how we shopped for and bought things over the last year. But vaccine rollouts and growing confidence in the U.S. that the worst of the pandemic is behind us means there's a potential turning point for consumer shopping as we've known it amid the pandemic.
Drawing from insights found in our recent "International Omni-Channel Retail Report 2021,"1 YouGov explored America's appetite to get back to physical stores; which categories and types of shopping people prefer to shop for in-store versus online; and whether consumers would like to keep any new aspects of their pandemic shopping experience.
The desire to return to in-store shopping
We know that the frequency of in-person shopping fell during the pandemic. Data from the report shows roughly half of Americans (49%) said they shopped less often in person since the COVID-19 outbreak began. But YouGov's latest research into retail perceptions reveals a strong desire to return to brick-and-mortar retail. Among U.S. adults who shopped less often in person over the course of the last year, more than half expressed excitement to get back into physical stores (57%).
And as physical retail takes its first steps back toward recovery, there's a particularly strong air of excitement among female consumers. Among those who shopped less in person due to the pandemic, women (23%) were more likely than men (16%) to say they are “very excited” to get back to in-store shopping.
A strong preference for in-person retail
As we enter the post-pandemic stage of retail, Americans indicated they prefer to shop in-store rather than online for most retail channels.
A close look at the data reveals a hierarchy of in-store preference for certain types of retailers. At the upper end of the scale, more than three in five U.S. adults said they prefer to shop in-store at grocery stores/supermarkets (68%), drug stores (64%) and value stores (62%) in a post-pandemic world.
As for convenience retailers such as 7-Eleven and superstores such as Walmart and Target, 57% and 55%, respectively, of U.S. adults preferred to shop in-store at these types of stores. These top-tier retailers sat within the “essential” classification amid the pandemic, and many were able to remain open. This in turn may have increased levels of trust in these stores in being able to fulfill consumer shopping needs safely and effectively throughout the pandemic.
Discretionary retailers selling footwear, clothing, electronics, cosmetics, toiletries and jewelry appeared lower in the findings about in-store shopping preference,
Online retail cements its place
Consumer demand for in-store shopping is clear, but how will this fit in with the rapid acceleration of e-commerce and online shopping behaviors over the last year? To answer this, it's key to understand whether pandemic behaviors may carry over to the post-pandemic era.
Data from our latest study reveals that, post-pandemic, a fifth (21%) of Americans predicted they will increase their frequency of shopping with e-tailers such as Amazon and eBay, compared to their activity before the outbreak. Three-quarters (78%) said they intend to shop online about the same or more frequently than before, with only a modest 11% stating that their shopping frequency with e-tailers will decrease.
For shopping centers and traditional indoor malls, roughly a fifth of Americans said they'll visit these places less frequently than they did before the pandemic, but there are variances between men and women, and between younger and older people.
Our new global study reveals other post-pandemic retail shopping trends, including:
- The consumers who were less likely to shop in-store amid the pandemic;
- Variations in online versus in-store shopping demand among different types of shoppers;
- The product categories people are excited to shop in-store for again;
- Outlooks on shopping experiences, including curbside pickup, hygiene protocols and contactless payments