It's no surprise to anyone in the business world these days that consumer habits have changed considerably in recent months, as COVID lockdowns and health hazards came together to keep more people at home and out of brick-and-mortar stores. One of the biggest changes in this regard is that more people are once again turning to e-commerce for a lot more of their shopping needs. The question many may have, then, is whether this is a permanent trend or something that will wind down as transmission risks decline.

Perhaps this could be best highlighted when it comes to online shopping around the holiday season. While almost 3 out of 4 consumers say they now buy something online at least once per month, and only about 23% rarely or never do so, relatively few plan to do their holiday shopping exclusively online this year, despite COVID concerns, according to a recent survey from Digital Media Solutions. In fact, this was the plan for only about 28% of men and 22% of women.

E-commerce should be easy and seamless for consumers by now.E-commerce should be easy and seamless for consumers by now.

What is seemingly becoming more popular, though, is that people want to get a head start on these efforts, the poll showed. More than 34% said they would begin their holiday shopping prior to Black Friday, and about 32% would do so on the weekend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The remaining one-third of respondents said they would delay their shopping efforts until after that point. That was particularly true of respondents over the age of 65, for which last-minute purchases were in the plans for some 44%.

Changing preferences
As with anything else in commerce, consumers hardly think of online shopping as a perfect process, and they certainly have a few notable frustrations with these avenues, according to a FIDO Alliance survey of 1,000 shoppers. For instance, almost 3 in 5 respondents said they have simply abandoned planned purchases with items in their virtual carts because they couldn't get over problems managing their passwords. Another 40% said they don't want to store financial details with retailers for fear of having their data exposed.

Indeed, more than a third of those polled said they didn't like having to enter personal or billing information and set up a unique account merely to make a purchase, and more than a quarter didn't want to have to set up new passwords for those accounts, the report said.

Returns are a common frustration
Finally, it's worth noting that when people make purchases online, they may have more reason to return items, such as if they are sized incorrectly or don't work as expected, according to Doddle. More than half of people say they have been dissuaded from making an online purchase specifically because of the company's return policy, and all but 5% are actively turned off by companies that create a negative returns experience.

For all these reasons and more, companies may have to continue chipping away at their attempts to make all aspects of online shopping experiences more customer-friendly. That kind of effort can encourage brand loyalty even after in-person shopping habits return to pre-COVID levels.

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