Almost a quarter of shoppers in the UK use social media to discover new products, according to US-headquartered software company Bazaarvoice’s annual Shopper Experience Index 2021.
The report looks at how consumer shopping preferences are evolving in response to changes in the high street, an increase in online shopping and other consequences of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The report looked at data from over 11,500 brands and retailer websites that form the Bazaarvoice Network, as well as Bazaarvoice’s community of more than six million reviewers on Influenster and a global survey of over 6,000 consumers.
Some of the key findings in the report include that social media has become a mainstream outlet for shoppers, digital shopping is surpassing brick-and-mortar shops, product samples are valuable to consumers, and shoppers prefer retailers’ own labels over brands.
Social commerce “has gone mainstream”
According to the report, 23% of UK-based shoppers are using social media to discover new products to buy, with Bazaarvoice contributing this to the ability to shop on mobile from home. However, when breaking down demographics, the report finds that 43% of 18-24 year-olds are using social media to discover products and 47% of 25-34 year-olds are using social media to discover products.
In the UK, 33% of consumers are purchasing through social media, compared to 28% in France and 30% in Germany. This trend is predicted to increase according to Bazaarvoice.
In a statement, Bazaar voice said: “There’s an opportunity for brands to utilise what customers share about their brand on social media across other marketing channels. When shopping on a brand or retailer’s website, well over a third (37%) of UK shoppers won’t purchase if there isn’t User-Generated Content (UGC) available – such as reviews and photos – on the product page they’re on. Equally, nearly half (48%) look on product pages specifically for customer photos, followed by other websites where the product is sold (37%) and search engines (35%).”
Digital shopping is surpassing brick-and-mortar
One of the key findings from the report found that 60% of survey respondents globally have adjusted how often they shop in store. In the UK, 31% have reduced in-store trips, 18% are only going shopping for essentials, and 21% are not shopping in-store currently.
The lack of physical shopping on high streets and in shopping centres is one of the main reasons that digital shopping has grown over the past year. According to Bazaarvoice’s network, online orders have increased by 39% in 2020 globally compared to 2019.
Although digital shopping is seeing an increase, 54% globally and 45% of UK-based respondents said that they would prefer to shop in person if only given one option between physical shopping and online shopping.
Bazaarvoice SVP EMEA Ed Hill told Retail Insight Network: “Online shopping has become second nature to many, and early predictions from McKinsey last year suggested that we’d see three-six percent of the new online market share “stick”, driven by older generations who are newly comfortable with digital channels.
“UK shoppers are least likely to shop in-store right now, and 55% would pick shopping digitally over directly in-store for the next year. That said, shoppers aren’t entirely willing to give up brick-and-mortar shopping quite yet. People thrive on connection – with each other, with businesses, and with products, so we can expect consumers to continue visiting in-store, albeit with slightly different priorities compared to a year ago.
“Things like “buy-online-pay-instore” and “research online, buy offline” will become more prevalent, making it crucial that retailers cater to both preferences and create that omni-channel presence.”
Product sampling replaces in-store experience during Covid-19
The report found in-store experiences were valuable to customers, with 44% of UK respondents saying that shopping at a brick-and-mortar store is how they feel connected to brands, and 47% saying that the biggest value in in-store experiences comes from being able to touch, see, and try on products.
Bazaarvoice said that, with non-essential retail closed in the UK, brands need to meet customers at their own home, such as through product sampling.
When asked about product sampling, 87% of UK respondents said they would like to receive free samples, 51% said they would be willing to write a review of the free products, and 28% said they would post about the product on social media.
Bazaarvoice added that 63% of members from its community on Influenster who had received free products from Bazaarvoice said they would repurchase products they sampled.
Own-brand labels preferred by shoppers
Over the last year, 49% of UK shoppers have made own-label purchases due to liking the product and the product being cheaper. The grocery sector was the most popular for consumers to buy own-brand labels, with 48% citing they would prefer to buy own-label, followed by home goods at 37% and beauty at 36%.
Demand is also driven by product availability, with 63% of UK shoppers stating that there were product shortages during the previous year due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Hill said: “The pandemic has accelerated shopping trends that were already in motion at the start of last year. More UK shoppers are turning to e-commerce than ever before, but shoppers still value the ability to touch and feel products, an experience that is typically difficult to replicate online.
“Brands and retailers can use rich, visual content online to create experiences where shoppers feel they truly trust and understand the product they are buying. Customer videos, images, and reviews are some of the most effective ways to achieve this. Enhancing the online experience with authentic user-generated content means other shoppers have the confidence to buy.”