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    July 24, 2023

    Cara Wood of Salsify: How Consumer Behaviors Are Changing Globally

    Written by: Satta Sarmah Hightower
    "Any ways that retailers and brands can make it as convenient as possible for folks to find exactly what they want in that exact moment in time, that's what folks are looking for." — Cara Wood, Brand Journalism Director, Salsify

    Nearly every year is marked by a theme in ecommerce. The years 2020 and 2021 were all about adaptation, as brands had to advance their digital maturity to meet the growing consumer demand for online shopping. Inflation and recessionary fears defined 2022, as shoppers often prioritized value over brand loyalty.

    Cara Wood, brand journalism director at Salsify, is as attuned to shifting consumer behaviors as anyone in the business. Wood surveys consumers across a growing list of countries to identify shifting consumer behavior trends on the digital shelf

    She joined a recent episode of the “Unpacking the Digital Shelf” podcast, “Fresh Consumer Digital Shelf Insights,” to share critical takeaways from Salsify’s “2023 Consumer Research” report, which offers a consolidated view of its surveyed countries, and what they mean for brands in 2023.

    The Stickiness of Online Shopping

    The first takeaway from the survey isn’t all that surprising: Online shopping is here to stay.

    While the National Retail Federation says that brick-and-mortar still accounts for the majority of retail sales, ecommerce continues to grow. 

    Salsify’s research found consumers aren’t exactly rushing back to stores like experts predicted. Of the 6,000 shoppers Salsify surveyed across five countries (the U.S., Great Britain, Germany, France, and Australia), 54% said they had changed their shopping habits post-pandemic. Most of them — 68% — said they shop online more frequently than they did a few years ago. Another 25% said they buy online and pick up in-store.

    Online and offline are also melding together in real-time and in interesting ways. Nearly four in 10 consumers surveyed said they look up product information online while in-store. 

    Many brands now use augmented and virtual reality to deliver shopping experiences to consumers while they’re browsing online or shopping in-store (think virtual furniture showrooms and virtual makeup try-ons). Wood says brands and retailers should use all the tools at their disposal to connect consumers with timely information to make informed purchasing decisions.

    “Any ways that retailers and brands can make it as convenient as possible for folks to find exactly what they want in that exact moment in time, that's what folks are looking for,” Wood says. 

    Consumers Now Place a Premium on Value

    As inflation has remained stubbornly high, shoppers have become more price- and value-conscious than ever.

    Across countries, consumers are buying generic to save money. In France, 77% of shoppers said they would consider buying a generic brand, and 56% said price was the main reason. In the U.S., 18% of consumers said they’ll buy a store-branded item when the branded one isn't available.

    It’s also important to note that consumers define value in multiple ways. It’s not just about price. Fifty-six percent of German consumers said product quality had become more important to them, as they sought more value for the money they were about to spend. 

    So, how can brands and retailers meet consumers’ increased demand for value? They can optimize their product detail pages (PDPs) to emphasize value, product quality, and other points of differentiation. The survey found that when it comes to the PDP, product descriptions matter most to consumers, followed by reviews and images. Smart retailers and brands will level up their capabilities in each of these areas to drive more engagement, and hopefully, conversions.

    They’ve Become More Eco-Conscious

    Just as consumers have become more value-conscious, they’ve also become more eco-conscious.

    The report found many consumers became more sustainability-minded when shopping during the pandemic. They now look for product information that helps them make better buying decisions to align with these values. Forty-six percent of shoppers said they search for information about whether a brand manufactured a product sustainably when they shop for clothes. 

    Some retailers are easily surfacing this information for consumers. Amazon, for example, has a sustainability tag sellers can place on their products. Target also has different icons, while Walmart is set to roll out a new sustainability program. 

    Sustainability has become a main differentiator. As consumers search for products with sustainability, brands and retailers who want to drive more sales should highlight this information in their product content. 

    Product Availability Is an Ongoing Issue

    Consumers across the five countries surveyed continue to deal with stockouts. However, this problem is more pronounced in the U.S. In the last three months of 2022, 

    73% of consumers said items weren't available. In 2021, only 43% of consumers said the same thing, so there was a significant year-over-year shift in the wrong direction. 

    Consumers use different channels to get information on product availability. Forty-six percent use search engines, 45% use retailer websites to research and compare products, and 23% use mobile apps.

    “Making sure that you know the availability of your product [is important],” Wood says. “They're [consumers] searching on the online retailer to see if it's even there. When it's not, they're going to buy the store brand.”

    “It's really important to have that product availability data being sent right alongside all of the data about what your product is.” — Cara Wood, Brand Journalism Director, Salsify

    What’s Happening With Ecommerce Down Under 

    For the first time ever, Salsify’s consumer survey included Australia.  

    The survey found what’s happening in the land down under mimics a lot of what consumers across other countries are experiencing in today’s ecommerce environment. 

    Among Australian consumers surveyed, 51% said they pass on a product when there isn’t enough product information online about it. Seventy percent said they are worried about high prices, and 71% don’t buy a product when it has bad reviews, further indicating consumers are focused on trust, quality, and value — regardless of geography.

    Looking Ahead for the Future

    Ecommerce is constantly changing. Brands and retailers that are nimble enough to keep up will build their competitive advantage. 

    It’s clear from Salsify’s research that product content has become an even more vital asset brands can use to engage consumers and differentiate themselves, especially with rising prices and ongoing availability issues. 

    Giving consumers the information they need at the exact moment they’re ready to buy may mean the difference between a closed sale or another missed opportunity.

    To hear more of Wood’s takeaways from Salsify’s latest consumer survey, listen to the full episode.