Online commerce booms amid shifting consumer behaviour

05 August 2020 Consultancy.com.au

A new report by Publicis Sapient has revealed that the online commerce wave already sweeping through Australia has been solidified by the Covid-19 crisis, as consumers look to sustain their online activity.

The global digital transformation consultancy surveyed more than 3,000 consumers in Australia and other key markets such as the US, the UK, Canada and Singapore, drawing information on consumption patterns during the crisis, and plans for the future. The resultant ‘Digital Life Index’ paints a promising picture for the online commerce landscape.

No doubt, being locked up at home has bred a reliance on the online space, a scenario that is reflected in the growing frequency of digital purchases. Publicis Sapient reports that more than 70% of consumers across the globe are shopping online more now than they did before, and most expect this frequency to persist in the future.

Online shopping increases in frequency

In Australia, nearly two-thirds of all consumers make an online purchase at least once a week, if not more often. Most of the rest make a monthly purchase online, while the remaining 10% or so shop online every couple of months. This trend is only getting stronger, evidenced by nearly 70% of consumers in Australia who plan to shop online even more in the future.

Coupled with the fact that most others intend to maintain current levels of online activity, the outlook spells promise for Australia’s digital marketplace. Thankfully, a robust digital purchasing infrastructure was in place before the crisis, as Australia’s online market was already on the rise.

In fact, Australia’s high street is under major pressure, with several major retailers going into administration as footfall dwindles. The crisis and all its repercussions have only served to consolidate this trend, and the bright online landscape is prepared for a boom.

Grocery purchases are moving online

The question remains of where the major scope lies for online growth. An expanding suite of consumer goods was already falling within the online purchase bracket, although Australians have shifted their focus to the essentials during the lockdown. Jobs have been lost, and lifestyles have changed, driving many to go back to the basics. 

The good news is that consumers are increasingly buying even their groceries online. According to Publicis Sapient, well over half of all consumers in the markets surveyed are shopping for groceries online, and nearly half expect to keep this going in the future. This is certainly a new trend across the world, as well as in Australia, where nearly 60% of consumers reported that they had only started buying groceries online in the last six months. More than half of Australian consumers expect this to increase in the future.

So shopping for everything, from essentials to luxury goods, is all likely to move online. That being said, growth in the online sphere doesn’t stop there. Plans to sustain online activity reflect lingering concerns about health and safety on the one hand, but they also reflect a change in consumer priorities.

Consumers try out new things

Much has been written about how the crisis and the subsequent lockdown transformed the consumer. Trends include a growing conscientiousness around purchases, solidarity with the local community and a ‘do it yourself’ attitude. Publicis Sapient reports that nearly 80% of its respondents actually engaged in a new hobby during the pandemic. No doubt, Instagram posts took on a whole new avatar during the lockdown. 

New hobbies include cooking, baking, a new form of exercise or a new sport, among others. According to the authors, online channels such as social media and YouTube have played a major part in facilitating these personal development stories. Once again, this bodes well for online commerce.

People go online for ideas and inspiration

In Australia, nearly 80% of all consumers went online for new ideas and inspiration during the lockdown, with a high rate of satisfaction. This includes information on new hobbies, ideas about new leisure activities, or even research and comparisons of various brands available in the marketplace.

“The research provides a clear, overarching trend in the last three to six months of increasing digital experiences,” said Teresa Barreira, CMO at Publicis Sapient. “Online shopping, contactless payments, health and fitness have all risen – all enabled by consumer expectations and convenience, with social media as the invisible thread that connects us to a global community.”


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