Buying online rather than going shopping is the future of retail

Among the lessons consumers have learned from the COVID-19 crisis is that they don’t have to go shopping. Consumers do have to buy things, of course. But quarantines and shuttered stores have shown that we don’t actually have to spend a good portion of our lives pushing carts through stores.

It turns out that although buying is essential; going shopping isn’t.

Now a new survey from PYMNTS indicates that the people who have walked away from brick-and-mortar shopping have no intention of returning to their old ways.

The survey of more than 12,000 consumers shows that

  • 52 percent of people who moved their grocery shopping to online say they won’t return to their old patterns, while a full 60 percent of consumers who moved their non-grocery purchases to digital say the same
  • 31.1 percent of millennials have gone online to manage their retail lives during lockdown and plan to at least partially continue doing so in the future
  • 38.1 percent of all consumers who plan to continue using digital channels as much as they do now even after the pandemic is over earn more than $100,000 annually

The shift to buying online is clearly good news for e-commerce players. But we think it’s premature for such companies to celebrate. Here’s why:

Brick-and-mortar operators haven’t surrendered. And no one expects them to. Traditional retailers will try to move the fight for market share off the computer screen and on to the streets. There will be lots of promotions, lots of ads, lots of excitement-generating activity aimed at getting people to return to real-world shopping.

But far more significantly, the largest brick-and-mortar players also have no intention of yielding the online battlefield. Rather, these companies — many of them flush with recently borrowed cash — plan to fight for digital dominance too.

As we said before, that can only lead to one place: a purge.

If you’d like to hear more about these issues, our CEO, Richard Harris, is speaking at the eTail Virtual Event on June 23 at 1:05 p.m.-1:35 p.m. ET. We hope you can attend.