Shopping habits in the US and Europe have shifted dramatically as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a new report has found, driving the rapid adoption and growth of buying online, pick-up and in-store services.

The report from GlobalData, ‘Multichannel Retail and COVID-19’, also reveals that transactions made through online channels – both on desktops and mobiles – did not exceed 30% of total retail sales at the peak of lockdown in any country covered by the study. Many of these sales were supported by physical stores, however, with ‘click-and-collect’ sales soaring.

The research, which explores how buying behaviour has evolved post-lockdowns, shows that the sales penetration of the online channel is falling as consumers return to stores and make greater use of fast-growing multichannel services.

Among the key findings are:

  • During the pandemic, the best online channel growth rates were achieved by retailers who have been employing multichannel services; this included many traditional retailers like Best Buy, Target, Dick’s and Walmart – as well as small retailers supported by services like Shopify. Many of these retailers are now growing at a faster rate than more online-focused retailers, such as Amazon
  • In the US, over the course of 2020, almost 36% of online non-food spend will be supported by physical stores. This is up by 2.6% points since the start of the year
  • 68% of US shoppers say they are going to make more use of drive-up kerb-side collection facilities at stores in the future and almost 60% say they will make greater use of collect-from-inside-store services
  • 89% of retail executives in the US say that physical stores will drive just as many, or more, sales for their business as they did before the pandemic started. Also, 87% are backing this belief with action by planning to invest more capital in multi-channel capability – allowing online and stores to operate seamlessly together – over the next five years
  • 79% of US consumers said that they missed the social interaction of physical stores during lockdown, with 71% saying that not being able to visit stores during the height of the pandemic reduced the overall amount of money they spent on non-food
  • At the height of the lockdown, US online sales accounted for 21.4% of retail sales – up 7.5% over the full-year 2019 percentage. However, two months after lockdowns ended, online sales as a percentage of all retail sales had fallen by 3.9 percentage points to a more modest 17.5%

“Despite claims that the growth of online shopping is leading to a ‘retail apocalypse’, the reality is that many retailers across all sectors are thriving because they are innovating with multichannel to provide a convenient shopping experience for consumers,” said GlobalData’s lead retail analyst, Neil Saunders. A very significant proportion of sales that are attributed to the online channel are, in fact, multichannel sales that rely on both stores and online for success.”

Saunders continued: “The idea that there is a battle between online and physical retail is outdated. There is only one retail battlefield and the fight is between all the players on I.

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By GlobalData

“Those that have strong multichannel options with both an established store network and online presence now have the advantage.”

The study utilises GlobalData’s consumer panel, which has tracked the shopping behaviours and buying habits of over 82,500 consumers since the pandemic started. GlobalData also drew on detailed data provided by individual retailers as well as interviews with retail executives.

Click here to access GlobalData’s ‘Multichannel Retail and COVID-19’ report