Consumers reward cost and convenience in 2022 ahead of another year of retail uncertainty

Across an increasingly complex retail landscape, retailers and brands must contend with a range of accelerating consumer demands in order to be rewarded by consumers in 2022, new research from premier fulfilment provider, PFS, has found. According to the research, more than half (56%) of UK and US consumers are most likely to shop online in 2022 for leisure or non-essential purchases. How the eCommerce channel is being used has altered significantly, with 52% of consumers in the UK and US stating that they don’t mind which website they purchase an item from their trusted brand on. Rather than focusing solely on the purchasing channel, it seems that consumers are prioritising cost, convenience and choice when deciding where to shop in the future.

The survey commissioned by PFS and conducted by Arlington Research took a “pulse check” of the expectations of today’s consumers:

– When asked about the most important factors influencing their decision to make multiple purchases from the same brand/retailer[1], consumers were mostly driven by free delivery (37%) and competitive/attractive prices (33%)

– In the UK especially, shoppers are more driven by cost than brand loyalty (31%)

– Even when it comes to sustainability, the desire to get the best price above all else was highlighted by 63% of shoppers agreeing that buying a sustainable product is important, but so too is getting the best price, which may be found at online marketplaces or retail giants such as Amazon

– Free returns (23%) and good customer service (22%) were also key factors influencing last year’s purchasing decisions for multiple purchases from the same brand/retailer for non-essential or leisure items – with eight-in-ten consumers (80%) reporting convenience to be important

– For the brands who were able to accommodate this across both online and offline channels, their efforts were recognised. Highlighted by over half of consumers (54%) agreeing that retailers are getting better at creating a seamless look and feel across channels, this all adds to driving brand loyalty among shoppers

Looking ahead…

When looking at achieving the ideal online shopping experience in 2022, free delivery/shipping was reported as the ultimate preference for 66% of shoppers surveyed. In fact, returns will prove to be a key consideration for brands as over half (54%) of consumers prefer to have multiple options to return a product. However, if retailers don’t get the returns process right, it can be a real turn-off for consumers – with two-thirds (67%) of shoppers admitting that they are put off a brand entirely if the returns process is too difficult.

Sustainable packaging, delivery and returns options at the checkout also form part of the ideal experience for 35% of consumers – rising to 38% in the UK and highlighting consumer desire to shop more sustainably. However, cost versus conscience continues to be an area that both consumers and brands struggle to balance with the higher cost of sustainable products holding consumers back from making more eco-friendly purchases (34%). It seems that whilst brands are putting more effort and investment into becoming more sustainable, this isn’t necessarily being recognised by consumers. A quarter (26%) of respondents find it difficult to understand which brands actively support sustainable initiatives.

Brand loyalty in 2022

When it comes to consumer opinion on brand loyalty, the results may seem surprising. Despite 51% of consumers agreeing that brand experience is often better in-store than online – when brand connections are made, it seems that they are stronger online (38% compared to 23% offline/in-store). This sentiment is echoed by 42% of respondents who agree they receive a more personalised experience online than in brick-and-mortar shops/stores, as they receive benefits such as personalised recommendations, sizing predictions and photo reviews.

Perhaps more worrisome, however, one-in-five (20%) of consumers admit to not feeling any emotional connection to a brand at all. This highlights an opportunity for brands to strengthen their connections with consumers further online by not only appealing to their demands around cost and convenience, but also ensuring prestige levels of service and quality.

Jamie Saucedo, Senior Vice President of Business Operations at PFS said: “2021 has been another challenging year for retail, dealing with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and Brexit, and battling through a sea of shortages – from raw materials to labour and infrastructure. Amid this turbulence, we cannot ignore that consumer attitudes have altered, and retailers and brands need to recognise that brand loyalty is no longer what it once was. To appeal to and build loyalty with today’s consumer, cost, convenience and consciousness around sustainability need to be brought to the forefront of operations – and that involves providing a range of options around delivery and returns that seamlessly integrate across commerce channels.”

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