Consumer ‘personas’ driving ongoing internet sales boom

Research by the World Retail Congress and Railsbank investigates the behaviours of today’s global consumer — and finds that the online buying habits are sticking…

INTERNET retail sales may have slipped back from the giddy high of 37.8 percent in January 2021, but they remained high a year later, at 27.1 percent — well above the 19.1 percent of March 2020.

“This shows that a great number of consumers who found they had no option but to shop online during the pandemic (have) been awakened to the convenience, choice and ease of shopping offered by e-commerce,” says the report.

It reveals four distinct consumer personas driving the surge in online demand: Digital Arrivals, Subscribers, Ethical Consumers, and Thrill Seekers.

The Digital Arrivals, pre-pandemic, generally preferred to browse and buy in stores. They are the most likely to have started their online journey during lockdown.

Among the more digitally adept are the Subscribers. According to the Royal Mail’s June 2021 Subscription Box Survey, 52.1 percent of 25-34s subscribe to at least one service. The sector has more than doubled in size in three years, with consumers spending over £1.4bn on subscription boxes in 2020.

This sustained pattern of consumption will depend on customer satisfaction, according to the BAV Group. Thrill Seekers, often under 25, look for greater interaction and enjoyment from shopping. They demand playfulness in retail marketing alongside gamified elements.

These influences will drive shops to become less transactional spaces and become destinations where consumers can discover and “play” with products. They are the most likely to drive spending in the Metaverse.

Speaking at Retail Week’s Accelerating Ecommerce Week Summit in Rome, Mei Chen, Alibaba’s head of fashion and luxury for the UK, Spain and Northern Europe, said the metaverse was merging the online and offline experiences.

The Ethical Consumers span age groups: those alarmed by plastic pollution and the climate crisis. They want products produced, marketed, sold, and delivered in a way that aligns with their values.

Retail Week’s Green is the New Black report, which surveyed 1,000 UK consumers in January this year found 59 percent were more likely to buy from a brand with a strong ethical and sustainable ethos.

This is forcing businesses to take radical action. Five of the biggest grocers — Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, the Co-Op and Marks & Spencer — have pledged to halve the environmental impact of the weekly shop by 2030.

The power of the green pound was highlighted by the Co-op’s ethical consumerism report, released at the start of 2022. It found that consumers spent almost £61bn on ethical products and services, a rise of 30 percent from 2019. This figure on sustainable spending equates to £2,189 per household, more than double the £1,028 level recorded in 2010.