Unable to visit stores as much as they normally do because of the coronavirus, consumers place a higher value on good product images and complete product information on retail websites. The crisis offers an opportunity for retailers, as many shoppers try new brands during this period, according to a McKinsey survey.

With the coronavirus closing physical stores, many consumers are trying new brands. And as they browse online, they especially value complete product information and clear images, according to a survey by Periscope by McKinsey, a unit within international consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

Periscope gathered the view of 2,500 consumers in four countries—the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and France—in early March and then again in early June, to get a view of how shoppers’ behaviors and attitudes changed during the pandemic.

With customers eager to try other brands and stores, this is a once-in-a-generation chance for retailers to recapture and win back customers.

The survey found 40% of respondents overall had purchased from a new retailer during that period, including 46% of the roughly 1,000 U.S. consumers surveyed. Germans were most wedded to their favorite brands as only 32% said they tried a new retailer during the shutdowns that took place as the virus spread.

U.S. consumers mainly switched to retailers offering better prices, cited by 51% of respondents. But 27% said they favored retailers that supported their employees, such as by raising wages, and 21% favored merchants that sent messages that seemed relevant to the crisis.

When they shopped online in early June, consumers assigned a higher value to complete product descriptions and accurate imagery than they did in March. Among U.S. consumers, that information was cited as important by 56% of shoppers in June, an increase of 13 percentage points from 43% in March.


“The need for informative product descriptions and clear product images at a time when consumers couldn’t see, feel or test products in a store ranked as one of the top three factors for a great online browsing experience in all the countries we surveyed, increasing in importance by 12 to 23% from pre- to post-shutdown,” the report says.

Fast-loading web pages also became a higher priority, with 53% of U.S. respondents calling that important in June versus 39% in March. Among U.K. consumers, 57% highlighted site speed as a key factor.

“As millions of consumers started spending so much of their lives online, they became even less tolerant of sites or apps that were slow to load or unresponsive,” the report says.


Free delivery and returns remained important, but was slightly less so in the midst of the crisis than before, as the percentage of U.S. consumers citing that as something they cared about a lot declined to 65% in June from 67% in March. Fast delivery gained slightly, cited by 41% in June compared with 38% in March.

The report concludes that retailers can make significant gains during this period if they make shopping convenient and satisfying.

“With customers eager to try other brands and stores, this is a once-in-a-generation chance for retailers to recapture and win back customers,” the report says. “It’s now more important than ever that digital experience be truly ‘zero friction,’ delivering consistently on attributes consumers care most about: free and fast delivery and returns, clear and detailed product descriptions and images, and quick page loading.”