(Source – Shutterstock)

Despite growth in e-commerce, physical retail stores are gaining popularity again

Physical retail stores experienced some of the biggest losses during the pandemic over the last two years. While most of these stores were able to survive the pandemic by adopting e-commerce business strategies, some brands just could not cope with the losses.

In fact, most retail stores leveraged digital sales to remain profitable during the pandemic. Many partnered with e-commerce platforms to move their sales online while some brands even designed their own online shopping platforms and improved their websites to cater to the growing demand for online sales.

The last two years have been indeed challenging for these retail brands with some deciding to move their businesses completely online as well. These did not only include services but products like clothing and electronics as well.

Interestingly though, as the pandemic eased off and restrictions on movements began easing off, consumers began returning to physical stores again. In Southeast Asia, most shopping malls that were almost deserted during lockdowns soon became alive with crowds making their way to their favorite retail stores.

However, while the return to physical retail stores has increased, the spending habits have changed a bit due to the pandemic. According to Meta’s Seasonal Holidays Study, 67% of year-end shoppers surveyed said they discover new products in-store and 66% said they discover new products on their mobile phones. For Gen X and Baby Boomers, mobile as a discovery channel increased by five points to 58%. Overall, 7 in 10 shoppers surveyed said they will spend more or the same as last year.

The survey of nearly 18,000 people across 12 APAC markets, was conducted in December 2021 about their year-end shopping attitudes and behaviors. The study outlined five new year-end Mega Sale Days consumer shopping trends to help businesses maximize every sales moment.

retail stores

(Source – Meta)

The five trends are:

  • Mega sale events drive new product discovery and consideration – 94% of year-end shoppers surveyed are likely to try a new brand. This included apparel and fashion (46%), food (46%), and electronics (41%).
  • Consumer shopping behaviors shift across different Mega Sale Days – In APAC, Mega Sale Days span across the calendar year, with sales focused on certain sales dates.
  • Gen Z and Millennials are shopping more on social platforms – 40% of those surveyed have discovered and shopped on social platforms, and 61% of them tend to be Gen Z and Millennials. 89% of social shoppers have also made a spontaneous discovery while shopping online. They are 1.3 times more likely to purchase on mobile compared to a non-social shopper.
  • Entertaining and immersive experiences influence Mega Sale Days purchase decisions – Social media is a strong discovery driver through personal connections and recommendations (74%), sponsored content (66%), and video content (56%). 77% of social shoppers surveyed have watched or are open to a live shopping event online, with shoppers moving from awareness to purchase within one session. Augmented Reality (AR) technologies also have a strong influence on shoppers with 81% believing AR tools are influential in their purchase decisions.
  • Cross-border shoppers start shopping earlier – rely on instant business messaging and focus on brand value. 55% of APAC shoppers surveyed made a cross-border purchase, with 33% of APAC cross-border shoppers starting their shopping earlier than regular shoppers. Brand values are particularly important to APAC cross-border shoppers with 46% looking at socially responsible brands, ethical/fair trade business practices (42%), and sustainability (41%).

For Dan Neary, VP of Asia Pacific at Meta, brands need to start building for discovery and being part of the consideration set well ahead of Mega Sale Days. Brands also need to meet people where they are.

“We recommend four key pathways to authentically engage. One, brands need to be social and mobile-first and deliver personalized ad experiences. Two, shoppers need to be able to connect with brands directly through instant messaging. Thirdly, brands need to create immersive experiences through AR, live shopping, and trusted creators. Finally, find creative ways to communicate your brand values and purpose,” commented Neary.