Bazaarvoice Report: Consumer Shopping Continues to Go Digital, With UGC, New Private Labels, and Access to Product Sampling Driving Rapid Social Commerce Growth

Bazaarvoice highlights how meeting consumer expectations and demands via multiple retail channels is critical to success during and after the pandemic

Bazaarvoice, Inc., the leading provider of product reviews and user-generated content (UGC) solutions, released its annual Shopper Experience Index. The global report explores how, largely due to the effects of COVID-19, consumer shopping preferences and behavior are rapidly evolving and how businesses should adapt to these trends.

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The research highlights that consumers are changing how the world shops — key findings for the United States include:

 Social commerce has gone mainstream: Almost half of the global population is using at least one social media platform, and not just for keeping in touch with friends — 32% of US shoppers said they use social media to discover new products to buy. As everyone sat at home and on their phones, it’s no surprise that over 1 in 3 shoppers made a purchase on social media in the past year. When broken down by age, that number climbs to 43% of 18-24-year-olds and 47% of 25-34-year-olds. As this trend is only set to increase, it’s time for brands to take what customers share with them on social media and utilize it elsewhere, especially as many can’t or won’t go in-store to see products for themselves. When shopping on a brand or retailer’s website, 42% of shoppers won’t purchase if there isn’t UGC available on the product page they’re on. And nearly half (49%) of shoppers look on product pages for customer photos, followed by other websites where the product is sold (47%) and search engines (35%).

 While digital shopping isn’t replacing brick-and-mortar, it is surpassing it. But most shoppers want a mix: While it was already on the rise, the pandemic has accelerated e-commerce’s trajectory by years. In 2020, online shopping went from a nice option to have, to a necessity. In fact, 36% of American shoppers say they’ve reduced their in-store trips, 18% said they’re only going in-store for essentials, and 20% said they are not shopping in-store at all right now. This is reflected in our client Network of over 11,500 brands and retailers, where online ordering was up 39% year-over-year in 2020 globally. However, shoppers aren’t willing to give up brick-and-mortar shopping just yet. Just slightly under half (49%) of shoppers would choose in-store shopping over buying online for the next year.

 Product sampling is helping to replace the in-store experience: Over half (52%) of shoppers say what they value most about an in-store shopping experience is the ability to touch, see, and try on products, and 47% say shopping at a brick-and-mortar store is how they feel most connected to the brands they love. With the ‘new normal’ having turned into just ‘normal’, brands need to meet customers where they are, at home. Product sampling is the perfect solution. Our survey found 82% of shoppers like the idea of receiving free samples, while 53% are willing to write a review of the free products they’ve received, and 28% say they’ll even post on social media. In a survey of the Influenster community of members who have received a sampling box from Bazaarvoice, 63% say they’ve purchased the products they sampled again, and of those who had purchased, 97% purchased at least one additional product from the brand because they loved the first product so much. Shoppers appreciate sampling because it gives them the in-store experience of physically interacting with a product that they crave, but from the safety of their own home.

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 Private labels are becoming preferred by shoppers: Through an improvement in perception and offerings, private label products have become sought after instead of afterthoughts. In the past year, 53% of shoppers have made a private label purchase. The top reason for doing so was liking the product (59%), followed by the product being cheaper (56%). Grocery is the most popular vertical that shoppers will buy private label (57%), followed by apparel and accessories (47%), and home goods (46%). While 47% of shoppers have intentionally purchased private label products in the past year, the availability of private label products has also played a role in addressing global product shortages due to COVID-19. Over three-fourths (84%) of shoppers report product shortages during the pandemic. As current times provide great opportunity for private labels, retailers must ensure that UGC is available for these products to give consumers confidence to choose them.

 “COVID-19 has not only drastically changed consumers’ shopping habits, but accelerated the trends already in motion before it began,” said Keith Nealon, CEO at Bazaarvoice. “But even though more shoppers are utilizing e-commerce than ever before, they still want the brick-and-mortar experience of truly getting to know the product they’re buying. As the pandemic continues, brands and retailers must have an omnichannel approach so their consumers can shop, and meet them where they want, when they want. No matter what channel consumers shop through, brands need to bring the in-store experience to the shoppers front door, and leave them with the confidence to make the right purchase decision.”

 The report is based on data from over 11,500 brand and retailer websites in the Bazaarvoice Network, Bazaarvoice’s Influenster community of more than six million members, and a global survey of more than 6,000 consumers.

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