A dramatic change in Balkan consumer behaviour provided a welcomed shock needed to invigorate and modernise the retail sector. Online shopping has seen a massive surge due to the pandemic, and this historically underdeveloped market has experienced an astonishing transformation.
There has been a dramatic and sustained change in the shopping habits of Balkan consumers over the past year. With months of physical stores being closed and various levels of lockdowns experienced worldwide, consumers rely on companies to provide what they need through online portals. The need for an online alternative is as true in the US and UK as it is in the Balkans, and retailers have had to adjust quickly to satisfy consumer habits and, ultimately, stay in business.
The concept of online shopping and eCommerce is a fact of life, particularly in the UK. The Brits love shopping, and being in lockdown did not hold them back. Online spending as a proportion of total UK retail sales hit a record high of 36.3 per cent in January this year — almost double pre-pandemic levels. With most retailers now open for in-store shopping, surprisingly, online spending still accounted for 27.3 per cent of the total retail sales in May 2021.1
We have spoken at length about the positive role supplier finance can play throughout the value chain. One area we have not looked at is the Balkan consumer, the ultimate end user in the retail supply chain.
Compared with the more advanced UK and US markets, the Balkans have lagged in adopting new technology, which has held back the regional eCommerce sector. But the pandemic has changed that for good.
One of the best insights into the changing face of the Balkan consumer is from retail expert Nevena Kostic in her article for Retail SEE Group. In her latest findings, she has identified several key trends:
• The Balkans have experienced an online food revolution in direct response to people working at home
• Digital shopping malls have blossomed, offering a range of brands and products, as consumers have become used to shopping online
• Recognised brands have developed online offerings enabling them to flourish
• The creation of digital apps and reward programs to incentivise loyal consumers
There is no doubt that this is only the beginning of a long, successful journey for retailers and consumers alike. The recent digital transformation of the shopping landscape in the Balkan region, which the pandemic has powered, is here to stay.