What’s Happening Now
As more consumers are being driven online to shop during these first weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are accruing valuable feedback from a growing set of data in customer reviews. Over the weekend alone, the total number of reviews that mention the pandemic nearly doubled, giving targeted insight to what people are thinking and feeling about the nature of shopping online and what the consumers’ top-of-mind concerns are.
A study conducted by Merchant Distributors, Inc., this week showed that the Coronavirus pandemic was at the top of the list of people’s concerns – trumping family income, job security, politics and the stock market. Amid this concern, the top activity people have been engaged in – aside from buying groceries and necessities – was shopping online and using online entertainment.
Here’s what we are seeing in the Channel Signal database of reviews when we search terms related to Covid-19.
Once Bitten Twice Shy
New shoppers are highly sensitive to both good and bad experiences. Let’s start with the bad. Many reviews highlighted frustration with customer service after a new purchase had been made. Either an item didn’t fit and the customer wanted more information about how to return it, or the product didn’t meet quality expectations and the buyer was upset at a lack of knowing how to resolve their issue. When the new buyer found it difficult to find answers on a retailer or brand’s website, or when they tried to reach someone in customer service and could not, they left a very negative review.
On the flip side, new online shoppers who have a positive experience go out of their way to leave a positive review. One review told the story of a woman, who doesn’t like to buy shoes online because she likes to try them on in person. Due to stores being closed, she connected with a brand she liked online, read lots of reviews and found information about accurate sizing. Then she made a purchase so she could start walking more outside. When the shoes arrived, they fit her well and were comfortable and she took the time to go back online and leave a highly positive review. She will likely remain an online shopper due to the positive experience.
Returns and Delivery is Critical for Veteran Online Shoppers
In addition to these observations, there is a large cohort of people leaving negative reviews when they are unclear about return policies, given stores are closed due to the pandemic. Many shoppers are in the habit of purchasing online and making in-store returns. When it is unclear if a store will accept a return after 90 days (given the crisis), or when they have trouble finding up-to-date information about returns online, people are leaving negative reviews.
As mentioned in our last blog post, the product delivery pipeline is stressed. People are experiencing delays in their purchases. The reviews show that if a buyer has to wait longer than they would like and the item doesn’t fit or is otherwise unsatisfactory, the buyer will leave a negative review. Conversely, if the item arrives and meets or exceeds expectations, the review is likely to mention a long delivery time, but the review trends positively.
Shop Now, Wear Later
Though the volume of sales in fashion has declined, many of the reviews written about fashion and shoe purchases show hope for the future weeks as spring trends take hold in the mind of the buyer. An overwhelming number of reviews in women’s shoes say things like “can’t wait until we are through this quarantine and I can wear them out!” In other words, people are beginning to think about the future and make “feel good” purchases, branching out from essential purchases as they wander online.