With the reopening of the nation's economy, many consumers must decide whether they want to return to their pre-pandemic shopping habits, keep the tendencies they picked up during the global health crisis or find a middle ground between the two.
In its BOXpoll findings from May 2021, technology company Pitney Bowes discovered that American consumers continue to shop online for the goods and products they need — even with stores reopening, pandemic-era restrictions lifting and vaccination rates increasing. But while nearly 5 in 10 (47%) of respondents shop online more often today than before the pandemic, the report notes that this figure has dropped seven percentage points since January.
Consumer sentiments vary on in-store and online shopping
A previous survey from Tallwave showed that consumers have mixed feelings about how they shop for goods and services right now — half of its respondents said they won't return to at least one in-person experience after the pandemic while 1 in 10 plan to do everything in-person once again.
According to Pitney Bowes' findings, this divergence could be due to how safe consumers feel conducting their daily activities in public spaces. For instance, the company found that the lifting of nationwide mask mandates has 22% of consumers shopping in-store more often but another 17% shopping online more often.
Whether or not a person is vaccinated plays a part too, as the BOXpoll shows that:
- Those who plan on getting the COVID-19 vaccine (about 12% of respondents) are 12% less likely to shop in-store than the general population
- Those who plan on getting the COVID-19 vaccine are also much more likely to shop online than the general population (33% versus 16% of all respondents)
- Those who are unsure if they'd get the vaccine are second-most likely to shop online more often (19%)
However, this still means that more people are open to shopping in-person, which likely explains a new fashion retailer-specific consumer trend: bracketing, or the tendency to buy multiple sizes of an item with the purpose of returning the ones that don't fit.
Although 41% of respondents admit to doing this, that number marks a 10-percentage-point decrease from 2019. Over 2 in 10 (28%) of shoppers say they bracket now less than they did last year, and only 8% report bracketing more often — resulting in a net decrease of 20%.
Retailers offering delivery guarantees are seen in a better light
Pitney Bowes also found that, especially during a time in which millions of Americans prioritize shopping online for the products they need, delivery guarantees can affect consumer sentiments toward a brand or retailer. More specifically:
- 69% of respondents believe that offering a delivery guarantee makes a retailer appear more trustworthy
- 65% of respondents agree that a delivery guarantee makes them more willing to buy from a retailer's site
- 52% of respondents say they'd be more likely to buy from a retailer offering delivery guarantees than one offering fast shipping
One can look to Amazon and its success to see how important delivery guarantees are to online shoppers. A different survey from Convey revealed that, because the online marketplace offers both reliable delivery times and fast shipping, consumers continue to support Amazon despite wanting to shop more from smaller businesses.
Methodology: On behalf of Pitney Bowes, Morning Consult conducted weekly "BOXpoll" consumer online polls of 2,094 online shoppers (ages 18 and up) in May 2021. Survey data was weighted according to age, education, gender, race and region to match a target sample of adults. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.