Shoppers Are Shifting Back to Traditional Retailers During Pandemic

Shoppers Are Shifting Back to Traditional Retailers During Pandemic

Consumers enjoy reliable delivery, affordable prices and stress-free shopping from traditional brands
Online shopping

Although digital-focused direct-to-consumer (DTC) retailers like Warby Parker and Dollar Shave Club surged in popularity before the pandemic, a new survey from Scalefast found that customers are once again gravitating to traditional retailers after a year of turmoil and uncertainty.

In its 2021 DTC Hype Report, the ecommerce platform showed that, over the past year, traditional retailers have leveraged their enormous resources to improve the experience of their online storefronts — and it's now costing DTC brands.

Americans see online marketplaces and traditional retailers as most reliable

DTC brands saw huge success in the pre-pandemic era, in part due to their ability to use their digital-first footprint to transform the online shopping experience.

However, in the middle of a health crisis that has cost millions of Americans their income, people are shopping with companies they trust and believe are safe, rather than the relatively unknown brand that cropped up yesteryear. And with the government-mandated shutdowns nationwide, traditional retailers have focused on moving their stores online as well, resulting in fiercer competition for consumer dollars.

As a result, Scalefast found that 30% of Americans today don't see any difference between shopping with a DTC retailer or a traditional one — a number that has doubled since last year.

Scalefast's analysis also showed that DTC brands still have a way to go in proving their reliability to consumers — an important factor to consider to win their sales.

The DTC Hype Report assessed different kinds of retailers on their perceived reliability factor over the past six months, asking respondents which one they found most reliable. The breakdown included:

  • Online marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart (57%)
  • Traditional retailers (41%)
  • Local businesses (38%)
  • Branded manufacturers like Apple and Nike (15%)
  • DTC brands (7%)

Just as DTC companies took a page out of traditional retail's playbook to gain success before the pandemic, household brands are now doing the same to increase revenue in today's digital-focused shopping environment.

Shoppers want fast delivery, affordable prices and convenience from brands

In recent years, brands have used much of their resources in a competition to prove to customers how innovative they are.

However, Scalefast's findings indicate that today's customers want much simpler things from the brands they support — specifically reliable delivery, affordable prices and a stress-free shopping experience.

The DTC Hype Report revealed that more than 4 in 10 consumers would buy from branded manufacturers and DTC brands (42% and 46%, respectively) if they offered free shipping.

Additionally, with a variety of options available online, customers are going to greater lengths to secure deals on products. A survey from IRI, for example, showed that in-person shoppers will go out of their way to save money on groceries.

Similarly, Scalefast found that almost half (46%) of consumers would buy from a branded manufacturer if they offered a promotion or discount. And despite the risk of shopping with a relatively unknown brand, 41% would be more likely to buy from a DTC brand if it was cheaper to do so.

Shoppers don't want to jump through hoops to get the products they need either, especially in the middle of the ongoing health crisis. The Scalefast analysis found that, over the past six months, nearly 1 in 5 (19%) of respondents bought something solely out of convenience.

A different survey from Convey found that 42% of consumers get most of their products from Amazon, as the company boasts fast and reliable shipping, a convenient purchase process and the ability to find affordable products backed by thousands of customer reviews.

This goes to show that companies that embody all three of these values are more likely to find success in today's digital-driven shopping environment.

Methodology: Scalefast and YouGov Plc. conducted an online survey of 1,223 American adults between Jan. 22-25, 2021. All figures have been weighted to be representative of all US adults (age 18+).

Feli Oliveros is a finance and business writer with experience covering personal finance, small business finance, and payment processing. In 2015 she graduated from UCLA, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English and minored in Anthropology.