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Shopware Consumer Study: Why Regional Retailers Should Seize the Opportunities Presented by the Crisis

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To the German article

The world is at a standstill and yet somehow everything is moving faster than it was two months ago. It feels a bit as though we should redirect our focus and devote our attention to new things in order to maintain some sense of everyday life and normality. Physical shops have been worst affected: From independent book shops and home decor shops to boutiques and the Italian restaurant around the corner, which until recently didn’t think much of a delivery service, because it had been doing fine without one. All of them and many more are now feeling pushed towards digitalisation. “Forced digitalisation” – this term sums up the situation quite well, because very few people have the necessary reserves to make ends meet if the shop is closed for a month or two. At the end of the day, however, the demands that potential customers have of new online retailers are not that high. Find out what they are here.

Who was asked?

A consumer study involving 39 participants, conducted by focus groups by Shoplupe and Shopware, revealed some interesting findings that give hope to local retailers. The survey was conducted with the help of focus groups, which are often used as an instrument in qualitative market research. A qualified moderator leads a discussion with a maximum of ten participants. This research method gives a deep insight into how customers think and therefore helps to make valid decisions. In the case of this particular study, we came up with four focus groups with an age range of 18–61 years.

Consumer Behaviour in Times of Corona

If one thing can be said with certainty, it is that consumer behaviour has changed abruptly. People are going to the supermarket with a queasy feeling in their stomachs and are perhaps buying a little more than they normally would to increase the time between visits. Many people are refraining from spontaneously heading out to grab a few bits. People are preferring to shop cautiously, with an exact plan up their sleeves and with more time between visits.

Many customers are limiting their purchases to food and hygiene products, and refraining from impulse buys. Things that are not urgently needed are bought at a later date or online if the financial situation allows it.

Everyday goods (e.g. pet food, yeast, flour, toilet paper) are increasingly bought online because they’re often no longer available in physical shops. The wave of customers has even lead to some small retailers who specialise in selling flour and other baking ingredients, for example, having to temporarily close their online shops in order to cope with the number of orders.

Local Trade is Reinventing Itself

But what about those who are not considered to be coming out on top during the coronavirus crisis? Is local trade being forgotten about or are consumers perhaps feeling a new kind of “local patriotism”?

The people are unanimous: local trade should be supported! For many, the only question is how. In fact, many customers are unaware that their local shop can continue to sell goods even if it remains closed to walk-in customers.

Those without a loyal customer base and with a low proportion of regular customers whom they were able to inform in good time about new opportunities will find it difficult to reach customers, especially if they had no online presence before the crisis hit. There is a major communication problem at play here.

This can be remedied by regional platforms, some of which have been newly established. These often have a much greater chance of reaching potential customers and informing them about the new shopping opportunities. In cooperation with other companies, Shopware has developed the “Downtown” portal, which will be available shortly. Downtown is designed to help regional retailers without e-commerce experience to sell products online quickly and easily.

Selling vouchers is also a promising option for retailers. Customers see this as a great opportunity to support regional trade. Whether it’s for Easter presents or just in solidarity, the motives vary. The only concern customers have is whether purchasing vouchers is enough to keep a shop afloat long enough to be able to redeem the vouchers at some point.

Overall, customers are very happy and willing to purchase products from local retailers online as well.

How the Online Shop Should Look

Contrary to some concerns, customers’ demands of local retailers are very reasonable. There are only five aspects that are important to customers: the goods, the availability, a delivery option, a simple payment option and an easy-to-use shop. Seals of approval that provide information about integrity are not necessary. Customers usually know who is behind the shop. If they have faith in the physical shop, they will also trust the online shop. As a retailer, it is important to remember that people are aware that the online shop has sprung up quickly in order to be able to continue to supply customers.

Just give it a go!

A digital strategy is something everyone needs. The study shows that customers are willing to provide support and can do without the gimmicks. Even mediocre emergency shops enjoy widespread approval nowadays.

“Nobody could have predicted the current situation; no company has prepared a scenario for a nationwide shutdown. However, it shows that stationary trade is built on sand,” says Johannes Altmann, founder of Focusgroups.io and Shoplupe.

The barriers to digitalisation are breaking down and retailers can currently devote themselves to this task without risk and in some cases free of charge. This is the chance to get into digital retail and to inform customers about the new ways they can shop. There has long been talk about the death of the high street. Perhaps we can prevent exactly that by giving customers the opportunity to shop in new ways today and in the future, i.e. the way in which many prefer to shop already: from the sofa. Once the situation has returned to normal, customers will be aware of the option to buy online and will be able to incorporate supporting regional trade into their stressful everyday lives. At present, shopping in physical shops is limited, if at all possible, but even in the future many potential customers will not find the time for it. All the more reason to give them other possibilities.