5 reasons online shopping still has us talking

With the end of lockdown restrictions imminent, the retail sector could be about to experience the next shake-up in what’s been a turbulent period, to say the very least. In today’s ‘Friday 5’ Alex Easlea picks out the juiciest recent retail stories from the past week that you should know about. 


Online retail sales have hit a record low

High streets are looking, thankfully, more like they were pre-pandemic. Consumer confidence continues to grow as restrictions ease, and it’s clear shoppers have been craving the types of sensory experiences that only come with old-school browsing.

But e-commerce has taken a heavy hit as a result with a record shattering dip, down -14% in June, according to research from IMRG and Capgemini. Of course, profits from the online shopping surge last year – where consumers had no other option – won’t ever be replicated. But this isn’t to say online shopping is no longer benefiting from shopping habits that changed during the first Covid wave, and marketplace volumes continue to soar. Consumers are simply rediscovering other avenues.

But with the infamous test and trace pings reaching unprecedented levels last week, are we about to see another online spree on the back of self-isolation?


Hotel Chocolat beats profit expectations thanks to digital shift

Hotel Chocolat was the envy of chocolatiers when it accelerated its digital transformation strategy early last year and struck gold with its subscription model. Now it’s shared figures to rub salt(ed caramel) into the wound.

Hotel Chocolat has reported that its sales rose 21% on 2019 to hit £165m. That’s an incredible achievement in the face of a global pandemic. While bricks & mortar still played a vital role in these sales (the retailer successfully negotiated smaller rent payments on 30% of its estate), its digital performance is nothing to be sniffed at: the brand anticipates that digital, alongside partner and subscription models, will drive 50% of its EoY sales for 2021.

Take that Willy Wonka.


Online gaming purchase habits are strikingly similar across different generations

Our client Outform, a global retail technology agency, recently conducted research exploring how different generations shop for gaming products. Turns out, not so differently!

Convenience is king for Gen-Zs and Baby Boomers alike: 57% and 59% respectively, have both taken to online shopping for that reason, while 48% and 53% do so because they want home delivery. 

But while their online shopping habits mirror one another, in-store preferences are markedly different. 45% of Gen-Zs want to get their hands on the latest games from stores as soon as they’re available, whereas 31% of Boomers favour bricks and mortar because of the tech-led experiences that come with it.


Flipkart raises $3.6bn

India’s answer to Amazon, Flipkart, is on the ascendance. It has achieved a $40 billion valuation after raising $3.6 billion. 

Walmart took a majority stake in the platform in 2018 and Flipkart is now well on the way to becoming India’s shining light when it comes to digital commerce. The platform currently boasts 350 million registered users with over 300,000 active sellers.

No doubt Amazon will be keeping a close eye on how this develops in relation to Walmart’s global ecommerce ambitions.


Consumers want brands to offer personalised experiences in online shopping

Recent research has shown that 62% of UK consumers are likely to buy again from the brands that treat them as individuals. 43% go as far as to say they only buy from brands that understand their preferences, like selling through their most frequently used social channels.

Personalisation is now the golden ticket to growth. And with cookies finally set to crumble in 2022, the pressure is on for brands to work out how they can manage this in the longer term. Waving goodbye to blanket retargeting strategies means brands will need to get more creative in how they deliver high quality and valuable experiences to their customers online.