9 in 10 Hesitant to Shop in Brick-and-Mortar Stores Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

9 in 10 Hesitant to Shop in Brick-and-Mortar Stores Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Respondents expect to double use of online food delivery services
A food delivery kit

As consumers settle into a new normal during the coronavirus pandemic, many are refining their shopping habits to balance their need for food and supplies with their desire for safety. Online retailers and food delivery services are likely to see a resulting rush of new customers, a new survey shows.

E-commerce service provider Yottaa surveyed nearly 1,200 adults the week of March 23 to see whether their fears of being exposed to COVID-19 were keeping them from brick-and-mortar stores. While consumers haven’t abandoned stores entirely, many are looking to fulfill their needs virtually.

The survey made clear that consumers are weighing their risks. An overwhelming majority (90%) said they’re hesitant to shop in brick-and-mortar stores because of the pandemic, with the majority saying they’d avoid shopping in stores entirely or only do so if “absolutely necessary.” As could be expected, many are turning to the internet.

In-store safety fears evolving

As the COVID-19 crisis has evolved, so too have consumer behaviors. An earlier survey conducted March 16 to 18 by Shopkick found that consumers were concerned about shopping in stores, but three-fourths (76%) at the time hadn’t started shopping online more frequently. However, the Yottaa survey suggests a change.

Among respondents, 94% said online shopping would be an important activity for them as the pandemic runs its course — and nearly half (45%) said it would be a “necessity” for them to go about their daily lives. Very few plan to use online retailers less, with 60% of consumers planning to shop online more and 33% planning to shop online at the same level as before the pandemic.

In addition to avoiding grocery stores, consumers are also looking at avoiding brick-and-mortar restaurants offering takeout. In fact, the survey found that respondents expect to double their use of online food delivery services because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Online shopping not without its challenges

Though many consumers are turning to online retailers, some envision challenges to getting all their needs met. The top three obstacles that could make online shopping more difficult, according to respondents, were:

  • Unavailable inventory
  • Lack of free shipping
  • Slow website

Respondents also expressed wariness about the ability of Amazon to handle a possible surge in demand. In fact, less than half (42%) said they felt confident Amazon would be able to get their online orders delivered on time.

With many consumers turning more often to online shopping, there may be hiccups. However, some consumers may find that they prefer shopping online to visiting brick-and-mortar stores, so internet retailers could experience long-term gains. If you do find yourself shopping more online in the coming weeks, you may be able to benefit from using a credit card that rewards you for it.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.