Trends are ever-changing within the retail industry, but a new survey from Bazaarvoice shows that pandemic shopping behaviors are here to stay.

Key insights from the 2022 Shopper Experience Index finds that consumers who were forced to shop online during 2020 and 2021 are staying there, and those venturing back in-store are largely relying on online product research to guide their decisions. The results highlight where brands should focus as they navigate a post-pandemic future.

Shoppers have become the new salespeople

The survey finds that “two of the top five factors that improve consumer confidence online are ratings, reviews, and product photos from other shoppers”. Small businesses are in an ideal position to use this to their advantage. Direct relationships with their customers means they can obtain authentic reviews, images and video. This could be the most effective content required to get shoppers to purchase.

Keith Nealon, Bazaarvoice CEO, is clear on this point. “Your brand is no longer yours. Virtually anyone can get online and share their experience with your brand, products and services — and in today’s e-commerce environment, that’s the content that drives how other shoppers perceive your brand.”

Fake reviews are worse than no reviews

According to the survey, 50% of consumers say that “negative reviews are just as important as positive reviews”. Perhaps counter-intuitively, not having negative reviews could devalue all the positive reviews due to customers perceiving that the solely positive reviews are a sign of faked testimonials.

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Authenticity is a retail business’s greatest asset, so retailers should be showcasing the thoughts and feedback, good and bad, directly from their customers.

Or as Bazaarvoice expresses: “negative reviews are an opportunity for engaging with consumers and identifying potential product improvements. Brands who respond to, and take action on, negative feedback will build trust with their customers and improve future products”.

Social commerce is simplifying the journey

With the survey showing that “69% of shoppers have been inspired by social media to make a purchase through another channel, with ease as the top reason for doing so,” small businesses need to ensure they are offering a frictionless customer journey.

If ease is a key driver for a purchase any kinks or hurdles on a customer’s online journey will be detrimental. As Bazaarvoice stresses: “Smooth. Seamless. Any friction takes away from the experience and makes it more likely your shopper will jump ship”.

Hybrid shopping has become the new normal

The survey found that 64% of consumers have “hybrid shopped in the past six months, with 64% doing research online before entering a store”. Even if shoppers make their purchase in store, they will have researched that product online first – another habit seen during the pandemic that is here to stay.

Bazaarvoice points out that “with endless products available at their digital fingertips, consumers are more willing than ever to try out new brands when they face shortages, stockouts—or just a lack of inspiration from brands they were once loyal to.”

Staying in tune with how, when and where your customer wants to shop is key for any retailer. The pandemic has shown never to make assumptions about what purchaser behaviors stay, and which go, when external factors are shifting.

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