Shoppers Settle into Omnichannel life
May 12, 2022 / By Dan Ochwat
“The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of online delivery and curbside pickup in America.”
The Shopping Shift into Omnichannel Life
How many times have you read a sentence like that in the last two years? I’m guessing a lot. I’ve certainly written a version of it a number of times.
Yes, amid lockdowns at home and social distancing within brick-and-mortar locations, retailers worldwide were forced to speed up curbside and delivery partnerships and expand their market reach. Meanwhile, grocery shoppers, specifically those who may have been previously hesitant about eCommerce, had no option but to jump headfirst into online shopping.
Now, five months into 2022, perhaps looking back at this eCommerce-by-fire storyline in a softer glow, I can’t help but marvel or appreciate how far the retail industry has come in establishing a true omnichannel universe. I’m also greatly interested in watching shoppers in the months ahead to see if their online shopping behavior will stick.
In my 20 years as a retail trade magazine editor and writer, I saw firsthand how the impending promise of eCommerce, mobile commerce, and social commerce had retailers and manufacturers adjusting to being “digital-ready.” Even the magazine I worked for had to rebrand from an in-store-only focus to one that recognized a burgeoning omnichannel world.
However, what feels different in this post-pandemic glow is that it’s almost like the omnichannel promise is fully here. All that prep and testing over the last two decades has enabled brands and retailers to fulfill their digital promise and deliver it at scale during the pandemic’s peak.
All the “behind-the-scenes” work is paying off
I know I’m glossing over all the work that brands and retailers have done over the last two decades, building out eCommerce platforms, running smarter-every-day digital ads and content, and engaging with consumers over social media and via location-enabled mobile devices. I’m also not trying to dismiss the incredible technology that brands and retailers are continually testing to prepare for the next 20 years.
But I do want to take a breath and say from my vantage point, it feels like omnichannel shopping, as promised, is officially here at large—and for the long haul. According to NielsenIQ data, 147.9 million American shoppers purchased food and alcohol online in 2020. That figure grew to 160.2 million shoppers in 2021 and should continue to increase as consumers become more comfortable shopping online.
In my household, during the pandemic and well into 2022, we went from very rarely ordering stock-up groceries online to almost entirely performing online stock-up trips for delivery. However, we continue to make fill-in trips inside brick-and-mortar locations weekly, so we predominantly shop brick-and-mortar by trips and likely in overall dollars (although I’m not prepared to visit that math). All this is to say; we’ve become full-on omnichannel shoppers. And like many American households, we got nudged by the pandemic and are now fully transitioned.
Breaking down the omnichannel shopping numbers
CPG brands looking to get inside households like mine are breaking down eCommerce and in-store sales numbers to define omnichannel shopping habits. NielsenIQ has been emphasizing this through its Omnisales and Omnishopper data solutions. The company also announced a partnership with the mobile loyalty app Fetch Rewards, strengthening its omnichannel outlook.
Also elevating how brands do business with omnichannel shoppers, retail tech company Eagle Eye has been developing a new strategy called Marketing in the Moment, answering how ads and messaging can be personalized to meet omnichannel shoppers at the exact moment they’re looking to purchase or engage with a brand. The strategy takes a range of contextual triggers informing the shopper’s decision in that time and place—motives such as weather, purchase history, how often they use a mobile app, and much more.
Tim Mason, CEO of Eagle Eye, along with ThinkInk, hosts a running podcast on all things omnichannel in retail and hospitality that I recommend subscribing to here.
The exciting thing about omnichannel shopping getting to a place of scale is that retailers can now launch innovative and creative ways to meet shoppers along their journey. Although they’ve been testing ideas for a while, shoppers are more ready than before. They may even embrace newer retail tech—streamable live shopping apps, touchscreen dressing room mirrors synced to a shopper’s purchase history and profile, contactless shopping, and more. Any small advancements will only further expand omnichannel shopping overall.
We’re all omnichannel shoppers now
Retail growth spurred by online shopping is here to stay. Just look at the wine category; NielsenIQ data shows online-only wine sales reached $2.1 billion (in the United States) as of early this year. That’s a 149% increase in sales from two years ago when online-only wine sales were (only) $850 million.
"NielsenIQ pegged the growth of online behaviors as “the great shopper shift.”
That is a dramatic shift. NielsenIQ pegged the growth of online behaviors as “the great shopper shift.” While that may be true, to me, the numbers aren’t so much a telling tale of consumers looking to shift online. It’s a tale of consumers comfortably settling in as omnichannel shoppers.
And for brands and retailers, they will only get smarter when it comes to omnichannel retailing, meeting shoppers seamlessly where they want to shop and how. I’m excited to see the omnichannel innovations to come because just as consumers get comfortable shopping one way, they’ll have new demands to meet ahead.
Do you have any comments or thoughts you’d like to share? You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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