Online tools have been a lifeline for many in lockdown, helping people stay connected with loved ones, work remotely, access news and information, and shop for essentials. The use of technology by people and businesses leapt forward perhaps five years over a period of eight weeks, and internet usage increased by 60 percent. Changes in consumer behavior are driving businesses to adapt the way they communicate with customers, while retailers around the world have seen their business models turned upside down.
Because of this big shift, digital tools and skills will be a vital catalyst to accelerate an economic comeback. Earlier this summer we pledged to help 10 million people and businesses in Europe, the Middle East and Africa find jobs, digitize and grow over the next 18 months. Retail, which accounts for more than 9 percent of jobs in the EU alone, will play a pivotal role in the recovery.
Today we’re kicking off “Accelerating Retail,” a month of activities dedicated to helping retailers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa accelerate their business recovery and growth to be ready for what comes next. We’re helping retailers of all sizes across the region be ready for the peak shopping season, and working in close partnership with local commerce and trade associations in many countries. Over the next month, we’ll introduce new products, tools, free training, unique real time insights and other resources—what follows is a brief snapshot of some of this.
Consumer needs have changed, and retailers need to respond
As the world around us has changed, consumer online shopping has leapt forward and decision-making has become more complex. Our Decoding Decisions study identified a “messy middle,” the space between a consumer starting their research and making a purchase, where they navigate the explosion of choice and information available to them both online and offline.
The messy middle has become even messier over the course of the pandemic—our needs changed, product and store availability became unpredictable. Shoppers have become more open to new brands and outlets, but they also need more help than ever to find the right product at the right price at the right time and place. This big shift is an opportunity for retail businesses large and small.
We’re here to help retailers respond effectively—so they can quickly understand and act on consumer changes while building their brand both in store and online.
Recovery and growth through digital
Online retail demand has grown exponentially, and businesses need a great customer experience to be competitive and build brand recognition. That’s why we’re rolling out a new version of Grow My Store in multiple countries, including Germany, France, Netherlands and Turkey. Grow My Store helps local businesses improve digital shopping, grow customer traffic and optimize online customer experience, to successfully complete transactions. Any business can enter their website URL into the tool to receive a customized report, industry benchmarks, digital traffic trends and actionable tips to improve.
We’re also making it easier for retailers to reach the right potential customers. We’ll be upgrading Smart Shopping campaigns to help with new customer acquisition and simplify advertiser onboarding.
Meanwhile, for the first time we’ve released insights for specific fast-rising retail categories around the world via a new interactive tool in Google Search—including the queries associated with them.
What’s next for online shopping
As online spend continues to grow, retail success will depend on delivering an integrated online/offline purchase experience. New research we’ve conducted in collaboration with Euromonitor found that in the next five years, most purchases will still be made in store—but retailers who bring together their digital and in-store offerings will make the biggest gains even if customers eventually choose to buy in store. Since consumers shop both online and offline, multichannel retailers and online marketplaces will drive 86 percent of the sales growth by 2024. The future of retail is not about either physical or online presence but an integrated consumer experience.
While there might be more change and uncertainty on the horizon, retail is critical to every region’s broader economic recovery. By embracing digital opportunities, retail businesses can drive resilience and growth.
Look out for our “Accelerating Retail” updates through September—we’re here to help retailers make the most of digital opportunities and prepare for what’s next.