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Foot traffic to non-essential stores will return to normal after the pandemic, consumer survey finds

Imogen Wethered
by Imogen Wethered

Despite the increased adoption of online shopping habits, findings from a survey by retail software provider, Qudini, suggest that footfall figures at non-essential retail stores will pick up after the pandemic at the same rate as online shopping and a greater rate than essential stores.

The survey, which took place on the week of May 11, 2021, found 27% of consumers were less likely to visit non-essential retail stores when they have been open during the pandemic – 39% were equally likely and 34% said they were more likely.

Read the Consumer Behaviors During and After the Pandemic report

However, after the pandemic, compared to before the pandemic, 43% said they are more likely to visit non-essential stores, and 37% said they are equally likely. Only 13% said they are less likely to after the pandemic.

For essential store visits, 46% of customers say they have been more likely to visit essential stores during the pandemic and only 17% said they have been less likely to. This demonstrates that during the pandemic, essential physical retail has grown much more than non-essential physical retail. However, after the pandemic, when compared to before the pandemic, only 36% of consumers say they are more likely to visit essential stores. When compared to the 43% of consumers planning to visit non-essential stores more after the pandemic, this suggests that non-essential physical retail will grow more than essential physical retail and online retail when the pandemic ends.

During the pandemic, online shopping behaviors have grown for both essential and non-essential retail, with half (49%) of consumers stating they are more likely than before the pandemic to shop online for essential products and 45% also stating they are more likely to shop for non-essential products online. After the pandemic, when compared to before the pandemic, 43% of consumers say they are more likely to shop online for both essential and non-essential items, suggesting that online retail behaviors have changed for the long run and will continue to grow, but growth will be slightly slower compared to during the pandemic.

Talking about the impact the pandemic has had on non-essential retailers, Qudini’s CEO and Co-founder, Imogen Wethered, says:

“Essential retailers have experienced a growth in online and offline shopping trends and sales. Non-essential retailers, on the other hand, have seen almost equal online growth but sharp reductions in store visits, placing them at a significant disadvantage.” 

“While online shopping habits will stick, these findings indicate that consumers are eager to return to non-essential stores, putting retailers’ fears to rest that in-store shopping for non-essential items will become irrelevant.” 

“To support the growth of store footfall alongside the continued interest in online shopping, retailers should work to increasingly blend online and offline experiences together to further enhance their omnichannel strategies.”

One potential concern holding consumers back from returning to stores is in-store queues; a concern which has understandably escalated as a result of COVID-19.

During the pandemic, 42% of consumers said they are more likely to avoid queuing in stores. After the pandemic, 36% still expect to be more concerned than they were pre-COVID.

Interestingly, younger Millennial and GenZ consumers are more concerned by queuing both during (45%) and after the pandemic (38%) than their Baby Boomer counterparts. Just over a third (34%) of Baby Boomers said they are more likely to be concerned during the pandemic, while only 28% said after the pandemic.

“Interestingly, younger generations are considerably less likely to shop online as the vaccine rolls-out. This is important for retailers to take note of, given that Millennials are the largest consumer group worldwide and GenZ consumers are growing in both spend and social media power,” says Wethered. 

“Retailers need to minimize waiting friction points within their stores in order to build customer confidence to visit. Appointment scheduling software and virtual queuing systems can help retailers to do so by eliminating the need for queues and creating a more pleasant and efficient customer experience.”

Read the Consumer Behaviors During and After the Pandemic report

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Recent consumer survey report

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