How COVID-19 has changed shopping behaviour in New Zealand.

It has been 3 months since New Zealand declared its first case of COVID-19. In that time the retail consumer as we know it has completely changed. Without warning and without choice retailers, brands and consumers across the country have had to adapt to a situation no one saw coming.

At Alert Level 4, all non-essential physical stores were forced to close, Alert Level 3 retailers could only complete orders in a contactless way. And at Alert Level 2 retailers have been given the green light to open their physical stores with requirement to ensure the safety of their customers and employees. These actions have resulted in consumers changing their shopping behaviours, which in many cases has resulted in more transactions moving online. After being deprived of non-essential retail for six weeks, online sales were up 350% under Alert Level 3.


To understand the three stages of the ecommerce customer journey, access our Marketing Your Ecommerce Store guide for free here.


Adjusting to changes in income and working from home

There are two changes to consumers working situation that could impact the way in which they shop, this includes changes in income and an increase in businesses continuing to work from home.

A Horizon survey published by Stuff found that almost a million New Zealanders had either lost their jobs or had their hours of work or pay reduced. This is likely to have a direct impact on how much consumers are spending and subsequently retail sales.

COVID-19 could permanently shift working patterns as companies forced to embrace remote working by lockdown, find that there may be a cost savings by not returning to the office. For retailers based in the city centre, if people are not working there, that immediately reduces the number of shoppers you will get in your physical store.

Both these changes in shopping behaviour will mean that as a retailer you need to cast your net wider by driving more traffic to your ecommerce store, to help you expand your revenue streams.

Supporting local stores

With 75% of New Zealanders intending to buy local for at least the next 6 months and uncertainty on delivery times on international orders there has never been a better time to talk to the patriotic Kiwi consumer. Use your social channels to drive traffic to your ecommerce website. This is where a welcome offer can be effective. Offer a discount on the first purchase in exchange for an email address. That way you can continue marketing with them over time.

Now is an opportunity to take customer service to the next level and to thank customers for their support. It could be by offering a free consultation over the phone, to give your customer the confidence they are getting the right product. Or a little note or email to say “Thank you for shopping with us, your purchase and support is what helps keep our business going”.

Managing the fear of going into physical store

Fear will need to be managed with 29% of consumers fearful of going into indoor shopping malls and 28% are fearful of re-entering public buildings like shops and cafes.

Let your customers know on your website, and via email what steps you are taking to ensure their safety at this time. You could offer special opening hours, perhaps after the shop is closed for vulnerable customers. Or you may like to offer them a personal consultation via phone or zoom. All these things will be remembered and appreciated and will help you to build a loyal customer base.

What could this mean for retail?

While it’s key to explore how shoppers’ behaviour are changing throughout this period, the question many people want the answer to is what long lasting impact will COVID-19 have on ecommerce and shopping habits. Which categories will people continue to increase spend in, and which will likely become less of a priority?

The shift we’ve seen in consumers moving to online shopping is an opportunity you want to grab with both hands. This could be from improving your SEO, analysing which products are selling or improving your conversion rates, which you can find more information on from our Marketing Your Ecommerce Store guide.

It will be interesting to see whether once COVID-19 is over, whether these consumers will keep shopping online, or if they will want to return to shopping in physical stores. We just don’t know yet. But one thing is for sure retailers that provide a seamless online experience are better placed to succeed during these uncertain times.

If you are looking for ways to improve your marketing your ecommerce store, check out our handy guide here.


By Kajal Lallu
Retail NZ


Stats sources:
– Survey of Retail NZ members
https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/121523741/coronavirus-the-covid19-budget-and-the-consequences-campaign
– Research First survey
– Research First survey

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