Consumer purchasing online during lockdownLast week the UK entered its second national lockdown, creating a new set of challenges for retailers to overcome during the busiest retail period of the year. And while lockdown 2.0 will have its challenges, some lessons can be taken from the first national lockdown to enhance the online opportunity.

To further support our clients and publishers, we asked our analysts to review the data and consumer shopping trends from across our UK network to identify three key lessons for retailers to consider and affiliate strategies to leverage.

Lesson One: Consumers seek inspiration from new sources

Since the start of the pandemic, the Rakuten Advertising UK affiliate network as seen consumers shift how they seek new sources of inspiration when discovering new brands and products. As the pandemic spread during the first lockdown, consumers lessened their reliance on Loyalty and Reward publishers and purchased more via content and coupon sites.

As lockdown eased in July, sales made via loyalty and reward sites began to rebound, a trend which has continued throughout October which saw local lockdowns increase. The shift in consumers seeking inspiration means advertisers need to ensure they have a diverse range of publisher partners.

Working with a range of publisher models will help brands to ensure they’re visible wherever shoppers seek inspiration. However, layering in additional strategies such as feed optimisations with online shopping partners, or multi-touch commissioning strategy will enable brands to enhance their brand/product placement with publishers.

Along with considering which publisher models consumers are seeking inspiration from, brands must also consider device usage. During the first lockdown, though consumers weren’t travelling to and from school or work, the reliance on mobile devices didn’t decrease. In fact, it remained the top-performing device. During this peak period shopping period, brands should be employing in-app tracking to ensure they’re equipped to partner with mobile-first publishers and are reaching their audiences in the most effective manner possible.

Lesson Two: Consumer priorities will shift

In July Rakuten Advertising surveyed consumers from the globe to better understand how the pandemic had affected them and their intent to purchase during the 2020 peak shopping season. UK consumers indicated that if a return to lockdown were to occur, 51% would not decrease their planned holiday spend.

Though the intent to not curb spending is positive news for UK brands, they must consider the shifting priorities of consumers. Digging into the changes in spending, our analysts uncovered that during the first lockdown consumers shifted spend to the health and beauty, homewares and outdoor verticals. Sporting goods also experienced an increase in sales.

And with the holidays quickly approaching, Britons are most like to increase spend on their immediate family (28%) and decrease spend on themselves (38%). Brands should be focusing on strategies on the gift-giver and look to broaden their targeting pools to capture consumers who are gift shopping and may not be a brand’s usual target audience.

Brands will also need to consider how lockdown will impact shipping times and product availability. Lockdown 2.0 is set to end on December 2nd, though many are uncertain whether this will be extended. The uncertainty may lead to an increase in early-bird shoppers, with people purchasing prior to peak period like Cyber Weekend. Effectively communicating shipping times and product availability to publishers will help guide consumers during the peak shopping period.

Lesson three: Consumers will remain savvy

As with the first lockdown, lockdown 2.0 creates economic uncertainty for the British people. Though the furlough scheme has been extended through to March 2021, a loss in job or decrease in wage means consumers will remain vigilant and savvy when purchasing this peak season.

As the COVID-19 cases increased in October and a second lockdown became more likely, consumers increasingly turned to Loyalty & Reward and Coupon publishers when purchasing. Consumers are most influenced to purchase (47%) by the availability of sales and offers. Brands should be looking to increase their partnerships with publisher models (Loyalty & Reward and Coupon Publishers) that entice customers purchase via the availability of sales and offers.

Additionally, our network demonstrates the deal sites remain a key driver for the Toys & Video Games verticals. Many have been purchasing Toys & Video Games throughout COVID-19. This demand during the peak shopping period will be for the ‘hottest’ new items such as the new Xbox. As new releases generally aren’t discounts, the availability of Cashback, along with product bundling deals, will play a large role in influencing purchase decisions.

For more data insights and shopper-led strategies, visit The Road to Recovery or reach out to your Rakuten Advertising Account representative.