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How Consumer Psychology Will Impact eCommerce in 2021

February 11, 2021

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User experience is more important than ever, the move to ecommerce has meant that more and more brands are having to live up to how the user experience was in high street retail, we look at how brands will cope in 2021...

Last year we learned just how connected we all are, and how those connections can both lead to crises and aid us in our response to them. As 2021 dawns, there are 4.66 billion internet users around the globe, or 59% of the world’s population. 5.22 billion people, a full two-thirds of people around the globe, use a mobile phone every day. And by the end of 2020 more than half of the world’s population had begun using social media

The web has made it possible for us to work in lockdown, connect with loved ones, and purchase the products we need to weather the pandemic. And we’ve shown our appreciation for the internet by spending more time logged into social media, video conferences, and eCommerce sites than ever before. A study from hootsuite found that the average internet user was online for 6 hours and 54 minutes every day. Numbers vary significantly by country, with Filipinos topping the list at almost 11 hours per day, and Japan bringing up the rear at under 4.5 hours online. And an ever increasing share of that time is spent shopping. Today we’ll be looking at how consumer psychology will adapt as we start living, connecting, and shopping in this brave new digital world.

Health And Wellness Come First

The constant stream of negative information, whether regarding the spread of the virus, the health impacts of infection, and the racial and political strife bubbling up in countries around the world led to the creation of a brand new verb: “doomscrolling.” In 2020 it was a major challenge for people to avoid stress, anxiety, and despair. As Nicole Ellison, a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, says, there's a “lot of demand on cognitive processing to make sense of this. There’s no overarching narrative that helps us.” According to her, this multiplies the stress and anxiety people are already feeling. It also led to historic numbers of Google searches relating to “insomnia.”

Many consumers, increasingly conscious of their mental and physical health, are seeking to reduce their screen time and purchase products and services that will have a positive impact on their well-being. There has been a massive boom in sales of yoga products, vitamins, and Pelotons, and meditation and mindfulness apps and services have been increasingly popular. The highly regarded meditation app Headspace landed a Netflix series last year!

Even if your brand is offering products with a tenuous connection to health and wellness, you can make your message more attractive to consumers by shifting your approach. Marketing experts have noted that “glossy advertisements based on escapism and aspiration hold less appeal” in the current moment. A better approach is to focus on care, relief, support and kindness. Offering compassion and relating your message to self-care will be a winning strategy in 2021.

Activism And Engagement

With the world significantly more connected, consumers have become much more engaged with social, political, and environmental issues. And social media has made all of these issues more international than they’ve ever been before. The #MeToo movement was the first to instantly spread from America to countries around the globe, and the trend picked up steam in 2020, as the messages of the George Floyd protests and #BlackLivesMatter movement were incredibly quick to make waves globally. In fact, Google search results from 2020 reveal that “How to be an ally” was a more popular search than “How to be an influencer.” 

Brands have felt the power of increased consumer engagement. A study by Sprout Social found that over 50% of consumers wanted brands to move beyond charitable donations and statements of values and create new goals, initiatives, and industry-wide coalitions to foster change. With a polarized political climate this will be a difficult tightrope to walk, but consumers are about to demand that brands declare where they stand on issues and take concrete action. Since 71% of consumers prefer to buy from brands that align with their values, even Nike has realized that the days of “Republicans buy sneakers too” might be behind us.

Moving Online

We apologize if you’ve heard the term “the new normal” so many times that it now sounds like nails on a blackboard. But eCommerce has become the new normal. A McKinsey study found that 10 years of normal eCommerce adoption were condensed into 3 months at the onset of the pandemic. COVID-19 didn’t create new behaviours, the trends towards online shopping, and a strong preference for convenience, personalization, and omni-platform shopping already existed, but the pandemic turbo-charged the shift in consumer psychology.

As we enter 2021, we need to start asking ourselves what to expect as populations get vaccinated and lockdowns are in the rear view mirror. Experts at Forbes have concluded that “we should expect the in-person shopping experience to continue to evolve to increase convenience for customers. Offerings like buy online, pick up in-store and grocery delivery are likely to grow in popularity throughout the pandemic and become standard operating procedures.” The safety and convenience of online shopping have been incredibly powerful inducements for shoppers to move online, and there’s no reason to believe that they won’t continue to affect purchasing decisions this year. McKinsey’s year end survey found that only 24% of Americans felt safe resuming their normal shopping activities, and that there had been a 40% increase in reported intent to spend money online in the post-COVID world. The move towards eCommerce also had a major impact on brand loyalty, with 76% of shoppers noting that they had changed stores, brands, or methods of shopping.

Reaching Consumers In 2021

This year you’ll need to reach your customers where they live, and demonstrate your understanding of how they’re living. This means getting online, getting to know their struggles, passions, and beliefs, and prioritizing their physical and mental health. You’re going to need to harvest all the data you can find, which means working with marketing partners who let you under the hood, and share and explain all of the relevant consumer data they acquire. You’re also going to need to invest in your ability to deliver the goods through online channels, from the supply chain to interfaces that make purchasing fun and easy. If you’re looking for an online marketing partner with experience and expertise in eCommerce, get in touch with Adimo today!  


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