Consumer Trends Insights for 2021: In-Store vs. Online Shopping

September 13, 2021
Last updated on
December 13, 2021

Online shopping is a new standard

One-click transactions, contactless payment, curbside pickup, and BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) … the list goes on.

E-commerce has been on the rise for years as more industries experience digital transformation and disruption at a faster pace. The COVID-19 pandemic exponentially accelerated this e-commerce (online via desktop) and m-commerce (mobile commerce) boom. Let's review some facts.

  • The number of digital buyers continues to increase. "In 2020, over 2 billion people purchased goods or services online, and during the same year, e-retail sales surpassed $4.2 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide." (Statista)
  • Online shopping surpassed in-store sales in 2020. "In 2020, goods bought online globally grew by 24% while stored-based sales declined by 7%." (Forbes)
  • Digitization across industries was no longer optional due to COVID-19. "72% of retail professionals said the crisis accelerated their digitalization plans by at least 1-2 years with 21% saying it fast-forwarded plans by at least 3 years." (Forbes)
  • Mobile is boosting e-commerce traffic. "In 2021, smartphones accounted for almost 70% of all retail website visits worldwide." (Statista)

As the current flows towards online shopping, influencer marketing campaigns and digital advertising should respond to the rising tide.

Online shopping consumer trends

'Tis the season for cyber sales

Clearly, holiday shopping online beats standing in lines. We asked consumers where they'll be doing their holiday shopping, and 76% said they'll be online rather than in-store this year. (Fohr 2021 Holiday Report)

Cyber Monday and Amazon Prime Day, the online shopping holidays, surpassed the once in-person-only Black Friday. During the 2020 holidays, Cyber Monday sales reached $188.2 billion. No longer do consumers want to line up outside of stores after a Thanksgiving meal when they can shop in their stretchiest pajama pants. Now, both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are held predominantly online.

2020 demanded the switch to online-only, but what about preferences for 2021?

Will people shop indoors or online in 2021?

The short answer is both. The long answer is this will depend on age, comfort level due to COVID-19 variants or vaccination rates, and new habits formed last year.

So far, 2021 has seen a slight dip in online shopping numbers, closer to the numbers seen in 2019. This proves that the mandatory move to online shopping occurred because of the pandemic; a must-have instead of a want-to-have.

Despite this, the pandemic affected shopping indoors the least compared to other indoor activities. Shopping indoors is the activity most feel comfortable coming back to, especially once more people in the community become vaccinated.

Even if consumers choose to shop indoors this season, online is where you'll find consumers spending more of their time in the consideration and research stage. When they do venture to the stores, with less desire to peruse, this is where your online advertising and gift recommendations will be top of mind.

When we asked consumers where they will be searching for holiday ideas, Instagram was their top choice (71%) followed by in-store (43%), blogs (34%), media outlets (31%), TikTok (31%), YouTube (26%) and TV (21%) (Fohr 2021 Holiday Report).

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How can you ensure your brand is on your customers' wish-list or gift-list? Glad you asked.

Social media removes friction for m-commerce options, especially Instagram

One of the larger trends we’re tracking today is the increased investment driving users to in-app shopping (think: Shopify, TikTok, more collaboration efforts, and Instagram Shopping updates.)

In 2019, m-commerce comprised over a quarter of total e-commerce – more than doubling since 2015.

As mobile usage surged during the height of pandemic restrictions, the power was placed in the hands of influencers. As businesses closed physical doors, influencers bridged a digital gap to reach and inspire new customers on social media and e-commerce platforms.

What does this mean for influencer marketing?

Influencers are becoming more and more valuable as the shopping features on social media platforms roll out. For some this is overwhelming, for others, it equals more opportunities.

"Everyone is shopping online! That means double-checking their fave influencers' feeds for recommendations and coupon codes! This has definitely influenced me to make linking/sharing products I use a top priority more than ever. - Jade Kendle-Godbolt

With the influx of options for your audience to now become 1-click shoppers (now with link stickers instead of swipe ups), the ROI metrics for influencers are much more apparent about who is driving value and who is not.

Influencers need to understand how they provide value for brands when recommending certain products, note their followers' new shopping habits, and embrace the changing world of consumerism.

Have you started thinking about your influencer holiday campaigns yet? Check out our 2021 Fohr the Holidays report for survey insights, expert tips, and takeaway strategies.

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