Consumers have inflation on the brain, and they’re changing the way they shop because of it.
That’s according to online marketplace SaaS firm Mirakl, which surveyed 9,600 global shoppers during Q4 for its “Consumer Preferences in the Digital-First Economy” report released this week. The research showed that 86 percent of U.S. shoppers are looking for better value when browsing and buying, and as a result, 71 percent plan to move their product searches online over the next year.
Consumers aren’t shifting spend online indiscriminately, however. In 2022, 46 percent of respondents said they conducted most of their shopping on a marketplace, up 10 percent from 2021. That’s because most (77 percent) find marketplaces to be more convenient than other digital channels—a 10 percent increase from the year prior. Three-fifths of shoppers said they wished more retailers had online marketplaces.
“From their perspective, [marketplaces] are destinations where they have more choices, better prices and more options for fulfillment,” Mirakl director of market intelligence Fareeha Ali told Sourcing Journal. Rising prices at retail—both online and brick-and-mortar—have also prompted consumers to price shop more than they did during the pandemic.
“I think before and during Covid, there was some deal-shopping, but customers were pretty loyal to the sites and retailers they were shopping with,” Ali added. “Now, with more inflationary pressure and uncertainty in the economy, they’re willing to shop wider and veer away from the retailers they were shopping with.” Mirakl’s research showed that 43 percent of consumers have stopped patronizing certain retailers because of price increases, and just 17 percent said they were willing to continue shopping with the brands they know and trust if prices go up.
“Amazon trained the customer that you don’t have to know the seller that you’re shopping with—you can trust other sellers that maybe you don’t know,” she said. “I think we’re seeing a more mature digital shopper now, who wants a good deal and a better price, and is willing to find it.”
More than half (53 percent) of U.S. respondents also said that digital retail has delivered better value during previous instances of high inflation, which Ali attributes to the endless aisle experience that e-commerce provides. “There are only so many so many products you can have in store because of actual physical limitations, whereas online, you can offer as many products as you want,” she said.
The vast majority of U.S. consumers are already well versed in shopping for fashion products online; 77 percent said they currently shop for clothing, while 86 percent said they shop for accessories. Those that haven’t traditionally used e-commerce are evolving quickly—over the past 12 months, 25 percent of U.S. shoppers reported purchasing apparel for the first time online.
Recent experiences with stock-outs at physical retail have also pushed shoppers to turn to their digital devices before heading out to the stores. Over half (52 percent) of those surveyed said that they look online when they can’t find an item in store, and if they find it, 71 percent are more likely shop on a website first the next time they need that product.
Ali said Mirakl aims to help retail clients like Macy’s tap into the marketplace craze by working with third-party sellers to augment their existing assortment. “Macy’s has their core categories that people go to them to shop for, whether that’s apparel or appliances,” she said. But looking through search data showed the retailer that it was missing opportunities to service shoppers looking for electronics. “So what Macy’s and other retailers are doing is looking for high-quality sellers that can fulfill that need for consumers, so the marketplace and Macy’s own inventory work in parallel to provide more of an offering,” Ali said.
Retailers have also leaned into omnichannel strategies to reach consumers hitting multiple touchpoints on their purchasing journeys. “It’s not just about e-comm or digital strategy,” Ali said. “Retailers are looking to make their customers more sticky by giving them the best choice in all channels, whether that’s an app or online or in store.”