Understand how uncertainty has driven digital acceleration within customer shopping behaviour and decision making

If you asked the average person a couple of years ago what it meant to “go shopping”, it might be described as this; a few friends meeting up at a local store to shop around for the latest sales or find a new outfit for a special occasion. You might take your time flipping through racks or sorting through shelves to discover that one special item you wanted desperately to find. In some cases, you might even find some things you didn’t even know you wanted until you laid eyes on them, in the moment.

If you fast forward to today and ask that same question, the answer will be different. The pandemic has significantly accelerated digital adoption and forced a convergence of the on and offline, therefore transforming how people discover, evaluate and purchase products. We now rely on multiple touch points throughout our purchasing journey, which is further accelerating hybrid shopping. In 2019 our friends or family may have been the trusted advisor on a new pair of trainers, but when was the last time you made a purchase based on a creator, celebrity or sports person? An expansion in touchpoints is enabling us to consume media in a new way, whilst also influencing our purchasing behaviour.

As consumer expectations heighten, friction free convenience and speed have become the required normality. Shoppers expect to receive quick and seamless experiences from checkout to fulfillment, with ”Same Day Delivery” hashtags growing by 34% on Instagram1.

The new definition of what it means to go shopping has significantly changed and likely for the long-term. But as consumers cautiously re-emerged and returned to stores this year, they were once again served another challenge as the cost of living crisis took hold. Disruption to loyalty patterns continue to challenge businesses to stay top of mind as consumers are forced to seek alternatives.

We’ve seen the cost of living crisis force consumers to adapt, experiencing a drop in buying power due to rising prices forcing them to buy less, look for bargains, switch retailers and/or buy cheaper brands. Product shortages have accelerated omnichannel shopping as shoppers respond by migrating to new channels to purchase the desired products. While shoppers turn to new channels, blending digital and physical touchpoints, they have new expectations for seamless shopping that leverages the best of both worlds. Seamless shopping will remain essential as consumers go hybrid.

A new era of multidimensional shopping is dawning. As a desire for more immersion, and connectivity drives the adoption of new technologies, AR and VR will transform the shopping landscape and enable us to shop across channels, devices and even realities. It is also prudent to note however, that as humans, we are creatures of habit and tried and tested methods must also play a part in the foundation of creating great experience - from 2020 to 2021 we saw a 233% increase in the term “QR codes” on Facebook1, sparking their renaissance in bridging the gap between the on and offline.

As we’ve emerged from the pandemic, affinity to digital will continue to rise, as it meets consumer needs. With the cost of living crisis on consumers’ minds, 42% of adults globally plan to start their shopping earlier due to inflation2 and 44% of UK shoppers say they’ll have completed their Christmas shopping before Black Friday3. With only two pay cheques before Christmas, the time is now for retailers to secure share of the squeezed customer wallet.

With peak just around the corner, how can retailers navigate through these turbulent times?

Brands should respond with warmth and understanding, using messaging that humanises the brand and matches the times, while targeting audiences based on new customer behaviours and telling impactful stories that feature real people and community members.

  • The more diverse connections you make with customers, the more effective campaigns you can drive, for example, AR, Reels, branded content and in-stream. We see that connected multipliers shift deeper brand metrics by up to 139%4.
  • Use digital circulars to communicate offers, 66% of users who discover new brands or products online discover them on Meta technologies5 and 74% are willing to postpone a purchase decision until they find an attractive promotion or offer6. While consumer confidence in the economy is low, Facebook groups are helping consumers to stay informed. When asked where consumers find offers, Facebook was the predominant response7.
  • Power your performance with AI using the new Advantage + Shopping Campaigns (ASC), leveraging machine learning to help you reach valuable audiences with less setup time and greater efficiency, ASC is designed to be the most efficient solution for performance-focused advertisers looking to drive online sales and it is already showing an average of 17% improvement in cost per acquisition and an average of 32% increase in return on ad spend compared with business-as-usual only campaigns8.           

Make retail advertising seamless with Meta technologies. Explore more here: https://www.facebook.com/business/industries/retail 


  1. Hashtags are based on Instagram data, global, Jan 2020–Dec 2021. Conversation topics are based on Facebook data, global, Jul 2020–Sep 2021.
  2. Our Predictions for the 2022 Peak Season. How Will Inflation Shape Holiday Shopping This Year? Research by Salesforce. July 7 2022.
  3. IPA survey reveals Christmas shopping plans. Survey commissioned by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), among a sample of 2,000 UK adults aged 18+. The research was undertaken by Opinium and fielded between the 24th of June and the 2nd of July 2022.
  4. Meta internal data; Analysis of ~7,000 Facebook brand lift studies conducted between Jan 2020 and Jun 2021 in EMEA, across all verticals.
  5. ‘Digital Circular’ Study by YouGov (Meta-commissioned online study of 22,149 people, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, UK, US, June 2022).
  6. “Discovery-Led Shopping Study” by GFK (Meta-commissioned online survey of 3,221 people ages 18+ in UK, France and Germany, Q3 2020).
  7. On A Budget (Electric House Publishing Group), 2022
  8. https://www.facebook.com/business/news/helping-businesses-grow-with-ai-messaging-and-video

This article was also published in The Retailer, our quarterly online magazine providing thought-leading insights from BRC experts and Associate Members.