We’ve entered the next stage of combating COVID-19 as vaccinations roll out across the country. While this may be the next step towards getting the pandemic under control, consumers remain wary. In fact, vaccine or not, most Americans said they would hardly change their current shopping behaviors — an important finding for retailers currently planning their long-term strategies.
As part of our ongoing efforts to support brand and retail partners with regular insights throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Shopkick recently surveyed more than 21,000 consumers to learn more about their sentiments toward the vaccine and how it will impact their shopping habits.
What we learned is eye-opening.
Many Consumers Don’t Plan to Get Vaccinated
Part of the hesitancy to revert completely to pre-COVID shopping behaviors comes from the knowledge that many people will choose not to get vaccinated. While some of the folks surveyed had already received at least one dosage of the vaccine (8 percent) or were planning to receive it (48 percent), nearly half (44 percent) said they didn’t plan to get vaccinated at all.
Retailers must also recognize how these views differ amongst demographics in order to successfully reach and engage with their target consumers. When broken down by generation, millennials made up the largest segment of those not confident in the vaccine (35 percent) and not planning to get vaccinated (51 percent). Meanwhile, the youngest and oldest generations proved the most confident in the vaccine, with 71 percent of Gen Zers and 75 percent of boomers saying they felt some level of confidence.
Don’t Dismiss Online and Omnichannel — Consumers Are Not Ready to Flood Back Indoors
Online and omnichannel options that soared in popularity during the pandemic aren’t going anywhere in the near future. Our findings showed that we’re still, at best, far off from a return to the pre-COVID level of comfort with public, indoor activities. Among those who were already vaccinated, less than half (48 percent) reported feeling more comfortable shopping in-store or taking part in other indoor activities. Even more surprisingly, only 18 percent of those already vaccinated and 15 percent of those who planned to receive the vaccine said they would do so more frequently now.
With this knowledge, retailers must look at their fulfillment strategies as a long-term commitment, with some already converting designated in-store space for picking up online orders or implementing dark store fulfillment centers to lower costs and increase speed. Consumer preference for online shopping or buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) will remain as long as there’s discomfort with indoor activities — and likely beyond that as shoppers gravitate toward ease and convenience.
Proper Health and Safety Protocols Could Be the Reason Retailers Succeed or Fail
When they do choose brick-and-mortar — a November 2020 Shopkick report found most people will still shop in-store for both essential (89 percent) and nonessential items (63 percent) — it’s clear that one of the most prominent trends shoppers will continue to demand is a heightened focus on health and safety.
Even if the majority of Americans are vaccinated, 79 percent of consumers expect retailers to continue enforcing safety restrictions, such as requiring protective face coverings for shoppers and employees, offering disinfectants for shoppers, enforcing social distancing, keeping plexiglass barriers at checkout, and limiting the capacity of shoppers allowed inside. This expectation is so critical to consumers that, according to 62 percent of respondents, enforcing these guidelines will influence where they choose to shop.
Our findings show that the vaccine will not mark the end of COVID-driven shopping habits. As the industry continues to navigate this next stage of the pandemic, retailers must remain diligent in monitoring consumer behavior and sentiment as they relate to in-store health, safety standards, and how shoppers wish to engage in-store.
David Fisch is the general manager of Shopkick, a Trax company, and a leading shopping rewards app bringing moments of joy to everyday shopping — both online and offline.
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By the way, we developed the BRA COVID-19 Resource Guide back in March for the benefit of all board specialty retailers (BRA Retail Members and non-members alike) during this challenging period. Board Retailers Association is continuing to actively aggregate relevant resources including strategies, webinars, articles, loans and more to assist you in navigating these uncharted waters. We still update this page with additional resources regulary. We recommend visiting and bookmarking this helpful link: BRA Covid 19 Retailer Resource Guide
If you are not yet a BRA Retail Member, you can easily opt in to either Regular (no cost) or Distinguished ($99/yr.) Membership via this super simple join form