Retail therapy: How shopping changed from being fun to functional thanks to Covid

Covid appears to have had such a substantial impact on retail that it took the fun out of shopping, according to research from QUT.

Oct 19, 2023, updated Oct 19, 2023
Households are at last in line for some good news after a sustained period of tough conditions. study (file photo)

Households are at last in line for some good news after a sustained period of tough conditions. study (file photo)

Professor Gary Mortimer’s research discovered that shoppers now want functional and transactional value from shopping, rather than fun and social interactions.

Mortimer suggested, that despite shopping centres traditionally being social places, offering fun and entertainment, during the pandemic individuals were forced to find other avenues to facilitate these values and experiences.

Previous studies had found that customers who approached their shopping experiences positively during the pandemic, demonstrated increased pro-sustainable self-identity, more sustainable consumption, and a shift toward online shopping. By contrast, negative experiences heightened customer’s fear, loss aversion, and herd shopping behaviour.

The research was undertaken to better understand changes in consumer behaviour regarding the values and experiences that customers seek within shopping centres, using data collected before and after COVID-19.

Mortimer said it had been suggested COVID-19-safety protocols like QR Codes, sneeze screens and social distancing measures implemented during the pandemic may have altered the values and experiences customers seek within shopping centres.

“We refer to this as a shift from ‘traditional’ to ‘transformed’,” Mortimer said.

“We found, when comparing data collected from shoppers prior to the pandemic with data collected after the pandemic, utilitarian and transactional value was now more important than ever.

“As COVID-19 mitigation controls were removed and retail businesses reopened, customers sought greater functional experiences.

“The range of stores and services offered by shopping centres, and the ease of access and parking, offered immediacy and practicality when shopping, rather than waiting for online purchases to be delivered.”

He said customers had grown accustomed to using frictionless and contactless payment methods during the pandemic and these innovative transaction methods appear to have become more important to shoppers.

“We still see many of these innovative transaction methods used today, and shoppers are responding well to them,” Mortimer said.

He said surprisingly, time convenience was no more or less important.

“This consistency between pre-and-post COVID-19 samples relating to time convenience suggests that tactics implemented during the pandemic, like click and collect and QR code ordering, have facilitated greater speed and efficiency and have been widely accepted by customers, who continue to use these facilities.

“Interestingly, the fun, excitement and hedonic (pleasure) value that shoppers once sought from a trip to the shopping centre was now considered less important, as was the social interaction.”

Mortimer, along with Dr María Lucila Osorio Andrade from EGADE Business School, Mexico, and Dr Syed Muhammad Fazal-e-Hasan from the Australian Catholic University in Sydney, published their findings in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services.



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