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Merchants Gain Deep Insights On Changes To How We Shop

Cash or card? Such were the halcyon days of payments. That duopoly is vanishing fast as payments preference takes center stage in a dash to anywhere, “any way you like” commerce.

Digital is dominating that landscape at present and, by the look of it, will come to even more.

“PYMNTS’ research suggests that 26 million consumers, or 10.6 percent of U.S. adults, have switched from in-store to online shopping for groceries, while 80 million, or 32.5 percent, have shifted to online shopping for retail goods in that time,” according to the November 2020 How We Shop Report, done in collaboration with and supported by PayPal.

A shift like that in a key area hints at others, obliging retailers to add digital competencies or risk critical revenue. “There are also 29 million U.S. consumers — 11.9 percent of the adult population — who have switched from dining on-site to ordering from restaurants online since the pandemic began,” the Report notes, adding insight to the magnitude of change being seen.

Certainly not limited to the dining sector, payments preference and the loyalty integrations consumers now expect are redefining how we shop for and purchase pretty much everything.

consumer shift to digital commerce

Urban Areas Lead The Digital Shopping Shift

Surveying a census-balanced panel of over 2,000 U.S. consumers in June and again in August for a glimpse at what changed in that short COVID timeframe, PYMNTS researchers found that regardless of age, income bracket or location, consumers are voting decidedly digital.

“Our research shows that 97.3 million U.S. consumers have now switched to performing at least one routine activity online — working from home on their laptops, browsing retail marketplace apps, ordering their food via aggregator apps or buying groceries for curbside pickup, for example,” per the new How We Shop Report.

Grocery delivery and mobile order-ahead dining are two areas where experts sense stickiness already, but digital preference is propagating to all aspects of the consumer journey.

The How We Shop Report notes, “The biggest shift has occurred among retail shoppers, 43 percent of whom have switched from buying retail items in stores to buying them online. This means that 80 million more consumers are making eCommerce purchases online now than they were before the pandemic began.”

Cities are the epicenter of digital-first shopping to be sure, per the Report, stating that “… consumers are most likely to have shifted to ordering food online if they live in large cities,” and adding, “Twenty-three percent of residents of large cities have [ordered food online], yet only 14 percent of consumers living in either large towns or rural and farming areas have switched from dining in sit-down restaurants to ordering their food online to go.”

geography impacts shopping

Millions Converted To Digital-First

On the all-important question of which COVID-era behaviors will stick and which ones won’t, digital channels have overtaken swaths of the shopping experience that are taking on an air of permanence, and that’s not a feeling: it’s strictly by the numbers.

According the latest How We Shop Report, “79 percent of consumers in large urban areas and 69 percent of those in rural and farm areas who have shifted to shopping for retail goods online plan to keep doing so even after the pandemic is over. This could lead to as many as 11.6 million more consumers shopping for retail items online in cities and 9 million more consumers in rural areas shopping for retail items online than there were before the pandemic began.”

Put another way, that’s 5.7 million more consumers in big cities and 4.6 million more country mice ordering their groceries online more than before. It’s what they call a sea change.

Here again, payments preference tips the scales, especially touchless and debit in 2020.

As the How We Shop Report notes, “Two percent fewer consumers are using debit cards or credit cards to pay for in-store purchases now than they did in June … and 4 percent fewer are now paying for in-store purchases using cash or checks than in June. Such changes may seem modest but translate to approximately 4.9 million fewer consumers paying with credit or debit cards and 5.4 million fewer consumers paying with cash or check now than just a few months ago.”

consumer use of payment methods

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