Retailers worldwide are going through a turbulent period. Offline activity largely ceased due to the pandemic, while shopping habits changed, with online shopping rocketing. However, the latest figures by the Office for National Statistics are optimistic—retail sales rose by 13.9% in June compared with May as demand from consumers returned close to pre COVID-19 levels.
We investigated how much shopping habits in the UK have changed since the beginning of the crisis: Has more been bought online since the pandemic and what products and services have been purchased online? Has the purchasing behaviour of consumers in the UK changed permanently?
This survey took place in July 2020 among 1,045 respondents in the UK that qualified for the survey.The full research methodology is at the bottom of the article.
A shift in shopping habits towards online
Since the beginning of the lockdown in March this year, the shopping habits of consumers in the UK have shifted towards online shopping.
The vast majority of the respondents (95%) admitted having done online shopping this year. In the period before the pandemic, over a third of respondents would purchase online 1-2 times a month (37%) and 29% would 3-5 a month.
When looking at the items customers were purchasing online for the first time, clothes (17%) and food (14%), the two items most sold online for the first time during lockdown.
Looking closely at habits during lockdown, shopping habits changed during it; the number of people purchasing online 3 -5 times has increased to 34%, and buying 1-2 has decreased to 25%.
This may suggest that people that have purchased online for the first time have had a positive experience and are willing to continue shopping online. When asked if respondents will continue to buy these products online, clothing (34%), household goods (27%) and food (26%) were the three most popular chosen by respondents as the three they are keen to continue to buy online.
Amazon reported earlier in its latest financial statement a total of $88.9 billion over this period, compared to $63.4bn in the second quarter of 2019, totalling a 40% growth in net sales.
Retailers that were traditionally ‘offline’ have had to quickly adapt to be able to continue doing business online at a time when physical shops were closed. These unexpected changes have left many traditional retailers struggling to find different ways to serve customers effectively using other channels.
62% of respondents state that their shopping behaviour has changed for good since the crisis. Out of these, a 24% state buying more online than they did before in physical stores, with 13% stating this choice is due to the reduced risk of infection.
Physical shop experience is still preferred
Despite this, the results of the study show that there is a percentage of respondents (53%) that prefer to shop at a retail shop.
When asked for the reasons for choosing shopping at a physical shop as opposed to an online one, the main two reasons are because they prefer the shopping experience (e.g., to touch the garment and to be able to try it) and also because it allows them to have the product immediately and not having to wait for it (44%).
A third of consumers (34%) stated that they would choose a physical store to support the local economy.
The future of shopping experience
As online shopping continues to consolidate itself as the new ‘normal’, pushed by the pandemic, there are other channels that are also growing, like voice-activated AI devices and social media.
For example, 56% of respondents would be interested in trying walk out shopping apps in the future due to time-saving and innovative ways – however, only 2% of respondents have actually used it in the UK.
The ‘just walk-out shop’ (like AmazonGO) consists of having an app installed on the mobile phone and in-store shoppers buy products without having to queue at a checkout till.
The technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When the customer has finished shopping, they can just leave the store and will be charged to their account.
Paying habits are also changing
The preferred method of payment is debit card (55%), Paypal (49%) and credit card (40%).
However, the results of the survey show that consumers are becoming more aware of security threats when buying online. For example, 22% of respondents are a little or not concerned about the security threats when buying online – despite this, a third of them (29%) has been victim of an online scam.
54% of respondents ensure the website they are purchasing from is encrypted with SSL before making a transaction. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) provides some tips and advice to consumers when looking to buy online.
In particular, the NCSC recommends using a two factor authenticator and password manager that can help keep passwords safe in a digital vault and prevents attackers from accessing sensitive information.
Online reputations matter more than ever
Reputation of the shop (36%) and checking third-party reviews (28%) are also used by consumers before making a final decision about the security of the online shop they are looking to buy from.
Online reputation matters. In fact, 62% of users trust online reviews more than expert’s opinions when looking to buy a new product, according to a previous study.
Our study also found that 92% of companies are not using software to evaluate online customer reviews.
Now that consumers are shopping online more than before, investing in a review management software can help collect reviews, respond to negative feedback and improve customer perception of the product or service that the business offers, leading to an increase in reputation and sales.
* Survey methodology
Data for the “Capterra Cashless Payments Survey” study was collected in July 2020 from an online survey of 1,077 respondents that live in the UK.
The survey data used for this article comes from 1,045 participants who qualified to answer. The information in this article corresponds to the average of all surveyed participants.
Note: There were several answer options available for the graphics so that the total of the percentages exceeds 100%.