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As Customer Journey Leans Digital, Amazon Becomes Unlikely Source of Inspiration

With shoppers having unprecedented access to their favorite retailers across different touch points, the customer journey as we know it is no longer linear. Online shoppers have the opportunity to start their search via an e-commerce site, a social network or a search engine, with 63 percent of shoppers starting their search on Amazon, according to the Future Shopper Report from Wunderman Thompson Commerce.

In the U.S. and the U.K., this percentage is particularly pronounced, with 83 percent of shoppers in the U.S. and 81 percent of shoppers in the U.K. starting product searches on Amazon.

Both Amazon and search engines lead the way in both starting the online search and delivering inspiration, with e-commerce juggernaut generating 52 percent of shoppers on the latter. Even given the Seattle firm’s popularity, this actually may come as a surprise to many as Amazon has always been more of a transactional destination rather than inspirational one.

“While in the past their ability to ‘inspire’ may have been questioned, consumers’ desire for ease and convenience means that they are wanting to shorten the sales process online, and one way that they can do this is by going direct to the likes of Amazon for inspiration,” said Neil Stewart, global CEO of Wunderman Thompson Commerce.

Shoppers still look elsewhere for inspiration when necessary, with 20 percent going to retailer sites, 19 percent viewing other marketplaces and 19 percent accessing social media channels to get ideas. In another example of how retail has really become a “start anywhere” industry, only 15 percent of shoppers reported getting inspired by a store visit.

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The long-term impact of COVID-19 on the digital dynamic in retail is real, as 65 percent of consumers say they personally expect to use digital shopping channels more in the future.

The Future Shopper Report is drawn from data collected during the COVID-19 outbreak designed to track the digital commerce shopping habits of more 16,000 consumers in the U.S., U.K., Australia, China, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, and also understand how this outbreak will affect shopper behaviors in the months and years ahead. It presents what retailers and brands can do to pivot and stand the best chance of surviving and thriving in the long run.

As the shopper journey continues to evolve during the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are setting standards for product access and delivery timeliness across the online experience. The Future Shopper Report noted that as many as 94 percent of shoppers wanted accurate product descriptions as well as information on whether the online product was in stock.

A Convey survey of more than 1,000 consumers showed that shoppers are willing to be more lenient regarding out-of-stocks―60 percent, for example, don’t expect retailers to have all of the items they want in stock and virtually all (94 percent) are willing to give retailers more time to deliver items during the pandemic.

Sixty percent of respondents felt retailers deserved an extra three to four days for delivery, while 19 percent were comfortable with five or six days. As many as 17 percent said more than seven days was acceptable.

During the pandemic, these shoppers are asking retailers for more proactive communication throughout the delivery process, with potentially steep consequences for a lack of transparency. Nearly 70 percent of consumers said they want more communication, not less, during times of stress and uncertainty. And 86 percent said it’s important or very important for retailers to say when an item will arrive.

Most shoppers also want the estimated delivery date for an item to be shown on the product page or in the shopping cart, with 75 percent saying they are more likely to buy when this is the case. Communication is key here, as 70 percent say they are less likely to shop with a retailer again if they are not informed in advance of a delay.

Despite giving retailers a pass on timeliness, shoppers do appear to still expect to wait only a brief time after ordering online, the Future Shopper Report said. In the U.S., shoppers anticipate orders to arrive in 3.12 days on average, quicker than the 3.35 average in 2019. Shoppers across the U.K. (2.54 average), Germany (2.5 average), Spain (2.27 average) and the Netherlands (2.18 average) actually have higher expectations then their U.S.-based peers.

Facing economic uncertainty throughout the pandemic, most consumers intend to curb their discretionary spending, and they may eventually look for ways to cut even their less discretionary spend to make ends meet. Americans will generally spend less on expenditures including travel, dining out and automotive fuel, but 47 percent would buy a non-essential item if they found a great deal, according to a recent survey from Deloitte.

On the other hand, consumers plan to spend more on necessities such as groceries, household goods and utilities, with 55 percent of U.S. consumers admitting to stockpiling pandemic supplies. And nearly half of these shoppers (48 percent) will pay more for convenience to get what they need.

“As long as personal health and financial concerns persist, consumer spending is likely to be restrained, except for essentials,” said Seema Pajula, vice chairman, U.S. industries and insights leader and U.S. consumer industry leader, Deloitte LLP. “Many economies are driven by consumption, so it’s not until the public feels safe that consumers will likely return to behaviors that were only recently taken for granted and economies, in turn, return to strength. We’ll be closely monitoring these attitudes as economies begin to reopen.”