How Consumers Are Engaging With Retail Brands In 2021

How Consumers Are Engaging With Retail Brands In 2021
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

Shaun Broughton, Shopify Managing Director APAC (pictured), shares his thoughts on How consumer engagement with retail brands Will change in 2021.

When the pandemic forced many Australians and retailers into isolation, lockdown and strict social distancing, some of the biggest and most established brands proved most reliable in helping communities through these drastic times.

Woolworths and Coles quickly scaled their food delivery teams, Australia Post was under enormous pressure to deliver millions of packages a week, and leading toilet paper manufacturers had to find new ways to deliver products at a rate that filled supermarket shelves daily. 

However, as Australia prepares to emerge from the pandemic and into the ‘new normal’ in 2021, consumers are re-assessing how they want to shop long-term and which brands bring the greatest value to them. While it was the big brands that delivered at the height of the pandemic, Australians are looking for more than reliability and scale moving forward. 

Consumers want to support local retailers

Logistically, Australians experienced first-hand the frustrations and challenges of not being able to receive a purchase within a few days during the pandemic this year. In fact, many had to wait for weeks or months for products like groceries, books, furniture, and other daily items to reach their doorsteps. 

Shopify’s research shows that, rather than waiting for deliveries or risking deliveries potentially ending up at the wrong place, almost a third (twenty-eight percent) of Australian shoppers used a click and collect service since the pandemic started, which is a far higher figure than in Japan, though lower than in New Zealand. Those countries saw nine percent and thirty-nine percent respectively. Among those, twenty-four percent of the Australian shoppers were using click and collect for the first time, in comparison to fourty-one percent in New Zealand and twenty-eight percent in Japan. 

Consequently, unlike in markets known for their convenience and swift delivery systems like Japan, where click and collect has been common for a long time but did not particularly take off during the pandemic, countries like Australia and New Zealand are new to shifting their behaviour towards these online-to-offline retail experiences.

This is all despite a tripled amount of retailers in Australia offering local delivery since the pandemic, and more than double the amount for New Zealand. 

Furthermore, beyond the ease and reliability of buying from local suppliers, fifty eight percent of Australian shoppers see shopping locally as their way of helping the economy. It’s clear that as well as working together to mitigate the health and social impacts of coronavirus on Australian communities, many consumers are taking personal responsibility for ensuring they are playing their part in helping Australia pull through the current recession. 

The future is independent and innovative

More than half (fifty-five percent) of Australian shoppers looked for independently-owned businesses to support during the pandemic, with a quarter of those doing so to support entrepreneurship (twenty-five percent) and almost a third to buy unique products (thirty percent).

Consumers want to support the local economy and are proactively hunting out the local innovators doing things differently. 

This is great news for entrepreneurs. The Australian startup ecosystem is rapidly expanding and, beyond that, the local economy has a growing number of small businesses shifting online. The latter are often solo business owners selling a product or service for a niche market.

Due to the pandemic and alongside the e-commerce boom, these solopreneurs have an opportunity to tap into the inquisitive and exploratory consumer mindset that has been exacerbated this year. 

For retailers in this category, now is the time to double down on highlighting to customers what makes your product and brand unique, and how you deliver customer service in a different way to the bigger players in your industry. 

The buck can’t stop there – consumers are shopping with their conscience

While Australians are being more cautious with how they spend their money and how they collect their savings during the current financial downturn, this has far from eradicated their drive to help others and contribute to society as a whole. Fourty-four percent of Australian shoppers believe it is a relevant experience when a retailer makes a donation to a cause with each purpose, and fourty-six percent give preference to green or sustainable products. 

These stats highlight how consumers are taking a long-term view when it comes to their support for and purchases from brands. Rather than purely looking for the easiest or cheapest buy, consumers are recognising the broader environmental, societal and economic impacts of each dollar spent.

Brands like Allbirds are demonstrating that a fun and future-forward business can be both planet-friendly and profitable, with their sustainable shoes leading to a reported billion-dollar valuation just two years after its founding.

As Allbirds has scaled in size and geographic reach in recent years, it demonstrates a clear example of the types of retail experiences and purposes that consumers have been wanting to support for years, and will increasingly support in an accelerated fashion following the pandemic. 

Retailers are still looking towards 2021 with a lot of unknowns: when the vaccine will be available and in which regions, whether in-store attendance trends will continue to increase, and how the logistics industry will respond to the ongoing ecommerce surge cannot be known for sure.

However, retailers that continue to follow the customer data and understand what customers are most willing to engage with, will find that tapping into their local stories, quirky approaches, and their purpose for continuing to do business despite the uncertainty of these times, will lead to stronger customer loyalty and engagement.  

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