The Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions imposed in the spring have increased the time spent at home, remote work and outdoor exercise, as well as reduced social contacts, all of which have led to changes in consumers’ purchase paths, as indicated by a survey conducted by the Finnish Commerce Federation, based on data from an international consumer survey by Statista.
The survey material was analysed over three periods: 18 February – 16 March, before the first restrictions imposed by the Government; 17 March – 3 April, during the peak of the pandemic in the spring; and 23 July – 2 September, when many Finns returned to work, school or studies.
Before the year-end and the Christmas season, Finnish commerce needs to understand any changes in the consumers’ purchase paths so that it can react appropriately.
“Some of the changes may be quickly reversed once the pandemic eases, while others may become permanent or speed up development that began earlier,” says Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist of the Finnish Commerce Federation.
Is the significance of quality increasing?
When the pandemic peaked in the spring, the significance of low prices decreased for purchases in general, with the exception of consumer electronics. Towards the end of the summer, low prices had once again gained in significance, closely mirroring the level of the beginning of the year in almost all products groups.
Meanwhile, the role of premium and luxury products has increased in some product groups, such as alcohol, food products, smartphones and outdoor and sports equipment.
“The increased emphasis on premium and luxury products in alcohol and foodstuff may be a result of the decline in restaurant visits. This is a phenomenon that should definitely be taken into account now, when the year-end festive season is about to begin,” says Kurjenoja.
The increase in outdoor activities, such as cycling, may have led to an emphasis on quality. At the same time, less money has been spent on many other services. More and more consumers may now emphasise quality over low prices, which is interesting in view of the Christmas shopping season.
“These observations do not mean that price would have lost its significance. On the contrary, it remains the main criterion for many shoppers,” Kurjenoja points out.
It is particularly pleasing to note that Finnish online commerce has successfully expanded its customer base despite the pressure from international online stores and platforms.
24/7 opening hours encourage an increasing number of consumers to buy online
Price has lost some of its importance as a motive for online purchases during the Covid-19 pandemic. This was to be expected, since the reasons for online shopping have most likely become more diverse in nature.
“People do not necessarily shop online for lower prices but because they spend more time at home or at the cabin, work remotely and try to avoid public spaces,” says Kurjenoja.
The 24/7 opening hours of online stores have also become a greater driver for online shopping. By the end of the summer and early autumn, opening hours had become by far the most common reason for shopping online. As many as 65 per cent of internet users want to shop online, because the stores are open round the clock.
“The increasing importance of 24/7 opening hours is a noteworthy observation when considering ways to secure the international competitiveness of Finnish commerce,” says Kurjenoja.
Physical stores are also important for multi-channel consumers
During the restrictions on movement last spring, consumers came across fewer stimuli for purchasing new products, and it was also more difficult to trigger purchase impulses through digital channels. The role of physical stores, newspapers and magazines remains lower than at the beginning of the year, while search engines and the brands’ own pages have increased in significance.
It is obvious that the importance of physical stores in generating purchase impulses has decreased this year. However, they still play an important role also for multi-channel consumers. This can be seen in that fact that over 70 per cent of online users want to digitally check the availability of products in the physical store.
“One of the key competitive advantages of Finnish commerce may be the ability to combine different channels and provide service through all of them. For example, over half of the consumers would like to pick up their online purchases from a physical store. This is a service that only stores operating in Finland can offer,” Kurjenoja points out.
Read more: Changes in the purchase paths of digital consumers, autumn 2020 (in Finnish)
Extensive material for members (requires the user to log in): Changes in the purchase paths of digital consumers, autumn 2020 / for members (in Finnish)
For further information, please contact: Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 40 820 5378, email@example.com