The Future Shopper Report

5 Ways to Prepare for the Future Consumer in 2020 & Beyond

When traditional shopping behaviors were completely turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic, digital commerce helped businesses across all industries address never-before-seen challenges. More and more consumers have become open to new technologies as a result of the disruption, forcing businesses to stop and think: is the way we’ve always done things going to continue to work in the future?

With so much change happening and the elevated importance to respond to new consumer expectations, we’re taking a look at the future of the customer experience and what technologies will help your business build a powerful digital strategy.

1. You Have to be Online AND Offline

Offering a seamless omni-channel shopping experience is more vital than ever. So much so that in a 2020 Future Shopper Report by Wunderman Thompson , over half of consumers (52%) said they wish brands would be more innovative in improving their digital experience, while 47% of those same consumers say that these companies being more innovative would influence their purchasing decision.

But the end of brick-and-mortar stores is nowhere in sight. In fact, 51% of online shoppers prefer retailers with both a physical and online store; up from last year. Instead, businesses need to rethink these locations as a way to get closer to their customers versus a primary source of revenue.  

Whether you’re selling in-store or online, seamless shopping experiences will be key. How? Cashless/cardless payment systems, interactive or augmented reality while browsing, and now more than ever, queue-less stores to minimize crowds and wait times. In order to compete with the big ecommerce retailers who are already doing it, it’s time to invest in your innovation.

2. Digital Over Physical Products

When we used to think of purchasing something online, it was a physical product that would be delivered to our door. But that’s no longer the case. The evolving need for instant gratification and ease of consumption have changed how, when, and where we buy.

One-third of shoppers (led by millennials at 44%) prefer their online purchases to be digital and instantly downloadable. In another study focused on 6 -16 year olds, 20% said they would never buy from a retailer who didn’t offer next day delivery, while 32% said if they could change one thing about online purchasing, it would be that all products are delivered within 2 hours.

When we think of a physical product, these expectations seem impossible, but younger consumers are shaped by a digital world in which streaming and downloading are taking over. The pandemic has only accelerated the digitization trend. It’s been the solution to a desire for minimal contact and fewer workers at physical locations. 

Subscription-based services are also increasing in popularity with 58% of consumers having 1-3 active subscriptions, which jumped 29% in just one year. But the customer satisfaction of these services doesn’t quite match up, which will only challenge digital services and its retailers to adjust and evolve in the future. 

3. Prioritize Ethics & Sustainability

In not-so-breaking news: your consumers care about the environment—and they want you to too. 71% of shoppers have said they wish retailers and brands implemented better environmental practices, and almost half of them will choose companies that prove to be environmentally responsible—through the utilization of less packaging, more recyclable materials, eco-delivery vehicles, etc.

Most consumers also consider your ethics and morals when making a purchasing decision (55%). So, your challenge will be in both meeting the demands of an environmentally-conscious shopper and an impatient one; balancing speed, ease, and price carefully with overall quality and care. The COVID outbreak has already begun impacting the ways in which people now interact with nature and are concerned with its preservation, which as a result, will also impact the way your business needs to strategize for the future.

4. Invest in Social Media & Social Commerce

Social media is thriving, not only for brand education and entertainment purposes, but now in actual transactions too. Your customers are living on various social channels, so you not only need to be there, but you need to be providing what they’re looking for in order to lead them down the conversion funnel.

The key to a successful social strategy is knowing who your target audience is; simply because not everyone uses these platforms the same way. In the US, millennials (31%) and women (24%) use social media most for seeking brand inspiration. With younger demographics also leading the purchasing behavior on these platforms and the increasing use of social platforms to encourage positive change, a comprehensive social presence will be even more important in the future.

5. Hold Off on Automated Purchasing

We hope at this point in the article, you understand the extent in which today’s consumers love convenience. But even so, there’s something still holding most consumers back from getting on-board with automated purchasing… right now.

Automated purchasing technology allows consenting consumers and businesses to set pre-programmed purchasing decisions on a device based on their preferences. But while consumers like ease, they also like control. As a result, only 24% of consumers currently use or have used devices that re-order products automatically, and 38% who have never used them, say they never will.

While some industries expect it to be some time before consumers trust this type of automation, clothing companies have already started seeing success. That’s because unlike other products traditionally purchased less online, consumers are already used to getting clothing recommendations from programming engines, and are comforted by the minimized consequences of free deliveries and returns.

To learn more about preparing your business for the future of digital and consumer expectations, contact the experts at Assemble today.


-The Future Shopper Report 2020® by Wunderman Thompson Commerce