SRL reveals Covid-19 impact on online purchases | Daily News

SRL reveals Covid-19 impact on online purchases

COVID19 has taken a toll out of our lives by pushing us towards sudden shifts in lifestyles and behaviours which we never thought of going through in the foreseeable future. But it has also brought us to the realization that we evolve to strive through any changes in the environment and we are an adaptive creature in any context of life. Our food habits changed - we have now learnt to live without outside food, our working lifestyle changed – we have now got use to productively working from home (though its subjective depending on the nature of the business), our buying habits changed – from offline to online shopping, and the list goes on. As much as we are an adaptive creature, this can also mean that we will be faster in bouncing back to our old selves once we pass through this pandemic.

Amidst of many behavioural changes we have witnessed among Sri Lankan during Covid 19, a major overnight change was observed in people’s shopping behaviour responding to isolation and uncertainty. With the entire country went in lockdown and non-essential businesses were ordered to close, customers started to limit shopping only to essentials. Brands had to make a fast adaption to meet changing consumer needs and one of such adaption was meeting shopping needs in lockdown. Only solution brands had was online selling. As much the Covid 19 was a surprise for consumers, it was the same for brands as well. Hence it was not an easy task for brands to change fast to meet fast changing consumer needs. However, from a business perspective, any brand who successfully adapted would not have lost the opportunity of being an online servicing brand even after Covid 19 among shoppers.

This effort is to gauge shopper behaviour changes during Covid 19 and how brands were able to respond to that change. This article borrows data from a study conducted by Survey Research Lanka (SRL) to capture the shopping behaviour before and during COVID19, and whether the behaviour shift is sustainable in the future. The study covered 580 sample represented 50% from Western Province and the balance from other provinces. The sample covered 30:70 ratio of male and female shoppers who are above the age of 18 years from all socio-economic classes. Both qualitative and quantitative data was collected via CATI (Computer Aided Telephonic Interviews).

Shopping Channels before and during COVID19

The most expected behaviour shift is the drop in visiting grocery stores and supermarkets, and the rise on ordering online. But the interesting substantiating evidence is that while people have more in to purchasing online, the rate of purchase via mobile sellers has topped the charts. The data of the study confirmed that mostly mobile sellers have been used to purchase fresh goods like, fish, meat, vegetables, fruits etc.

The 9% of online ordering before Covid19 had shifted to 47% during Covid19. The most used online platforms for purchases are Cargillsand Keels followed by Arpico,Laugfs, Sathosa, Glomark, and Spar and many other online sellers. Majority of the online shoppers are from the middle to higher Socio-economic classes.

Online purchase behaviour patterns – Lost opportunity 1

From all shoppers interviewed, out of 59% claimed that they have considered buying online during Covid 19 47% had actually purchased goods online whereas the balance 12% had tried but did not buy online for many irritations they faced in the process of entering into the online purchase zone. The balance 41% had not even tried online purchase during Covid 19 and this segment is mostly populated by the lower end social strata hence safe to believe that lack of awareness and lack of familiarity with online purchase systems and attitude towards online purchase would have been the reasons for not trying online purchase during Covid 19. While usage of mobile seller is fairly common among all, majority of those who have not used online channels would have solely depend on mobile sellers and nearby shops during Covid 19.

It is interesting to note that the shoppers who have tried but not purchased online are highly represented by middle to higher social economic class (SEC) households but brands have lost the opportunity to convert them to buy online.

Online purchase behaviour patterns – Lost opportunity 2

The boosted up online buying pattern during Covid 19 was unexpected foronline sellers too, hence there was a lack of preparation from seller side to meet this sudden change and hence it is interesting to analyze the motivation created among the online shoppers to continue buying online even after Covid 19 is slowly fading away from the society which will definitely take some time than all of us expect it to be. Out of curiosity SRL had captured the probability to sustain this online adaption by shoppers after Covid 19 and the answer is very clear that not even 1/5th of those who got in to the bandwagon of online purchase would continue buying online. This seems quite a loss for sellers as retention is going to be poor. It sounds like people have used online purchase channels just as an adaption to the situation and everyone is planning to go back to their usual way of shopping for groceries. There is a minimum motivation and reason created for online shoppers to believe in online buying by online sellers who struggled to service the high demand during Covid 19. From a business perceptive it is a lost opportunity for any online sellerthat adapted to the situation irrespective of the difficulty!

Covid 19 is still with us, but online grocery shopping has gone back to normal level

As per the study by SRL, before Covid 19, only 9% had done online buying and with the lock down it boosted phenomenally and went up to 47%. However, when converting the 18% who mentioned that they would continue online buying as per the above chart (among those who have bought online during Covid) to all shoppers interviewed (580) it is the same 9% who used to buy online before Covid 19 would continue online buying after Covid 19.

Key reasons for this opportunity loss

Different level of satisfaction was displayed by customers those who have interacted and tried to interact with different brands who provide online shopping facilities. Though they were happy about being able to complete an order online and get the goods delivered (fully or partially), the irritations during this shopping experience is quite high. Higher delivery charges, low response rate during follow ups, difficulty in contacting the hotlines given, unavailability of paid goods and complicated ordering process are the major irritations shoppers faced at an overall level. Some brands had put a restriction on the minimum order value which was also taken as a concern by shoppers and these reasons had demotivated the online shopper to continue buying online continuously.

On the other hand, there were positive feedbacks too on online purchase from shoppers which are mostly service related aspects.

In sum, is it the complacency of shoppers with their old selves that both businesses and shoppers fail to nourish the progressive lifestyle that was adapted during COVID19? Does this mean the ‘new normal’ ways will soon be history? Is it going to bejust another nice ‘Once upon a time during COVID19…’story we tell our kids? Definitely a thought to ponder upon!

Marketers and businesses have failed to utilize this opportunity to establish their online channel as a preferred mode of shopping amidst customers. They failed to convince the shoppers to continue with online buying for the mentionedreasons.

The online shopping experience was neither pleasing nor convincing for a shopper to continue with the same channel even after the pandemic situation settles down.This is a classic case study ofshort-sightedness and inward-looking approach of businesses which focuses on fulfillment of immediate & situational needs of the company/customersand failing to alongsidefocus on business from a farsighted point of view – THE TRUE TO THE CORE MARKET MYOPIA SCENARIO!

With the support and power of all heroes in the healthcare sector, three forces and police, we wish a better and safer living to all citizens of Sri Lanka!

SRL is the FIRST Sri Lankan full service independent marketing and social research Consultancy Company and First established Media Research Unit in the country.


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