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These Consumer Trends Will Define Retail in Summer 2021

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With Covid-19 vaccination rates on the rise and more states now fully reopened, shopping habits are shifting. In a consumer survey released just this morning, the digital services firm Avionos found that nearly half of shoppers (48%) say they’ll spend more on shopping this summer than last, and 37% expect to spend more on big-ticket items like cars and vacations.

With stimulus checks in their pockets and the freedom to once again shop in person, consumers say they plan to spend money with brands that “deliver what they expect when they expect it.” 

“The pandemic has certainly changed consumer behaviors,” says Mousumi Behari, digital strategy practice lead at Avionos. “It’s not enough to have an easy-to-use digital experience; safety must extend to the brick-and-mortar stores.”

Avionos surveyed 750 consumers in the U.S. in April 2021 and benchmarked against an October 2020 survey of the same audience. The resulting data shows how the same shoppers’ experiences are changing over time and how retailers might best capitalize on the current market momentum in summer 2021.

While shoppers still want to connect with brands across multiple channels, those expectations have shifted away from a narrow focus on digital. Consumers now are less likely to cite easy online purchasing experiences as an indication that a brand cares. For example, Avionos found that consumers are spending more time away from their mobile devices compared to last year.

Brands that don’t want to be seen as “digital laggards” will need to deploy omnichannel strategies to meet consumers where they are, pairing the digital innovations of the Covid era with effective brick-and-mortar customer experiences.

Trust as a Marketing Tool

According to the Avionos survey, almost two-thirds (62%) of consumers say they trust small, local businesses, compared to 36% who trust large, national retailers. However, consumers are still more likely to trust large, national retailers when it comes to “trust-building actions,” like offering fair prices and delivering orders on time. 

“The survey revealed that it’s no longer about having great product information or an easy checkout. Consumers want to feel like they know the brand, down to the materials they are using. They want easy and seamless returns, and if they need customer service, then they expect to contact the brand on any platform to get the help they need,” Behari says. “While this can be complex for brands, if done strategically, they not only win by getting the consumer’s loyalty, they also win by having a holistic brand presence.”

Consumers this summer are looking for two-way conversations — and 20% say they’re looking for answers to their inquiries on social media. Behari says having a solid social media presence, combined with an integrated loyalty program, seems to be the recipe for success for brands that want to maximize trust in summer 2021.

“A loyalty program is a great tool for gaining a consumer base that will advocate for your brand,” Behari says. “For the consumer, they receive relevant offers and perhaps points or deals for joining the program. For the brand, they have a built-in segment to gain insights and analytics from to better inform their marketing strategy and continue to build trust within their customer base.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.