How Lockdown has Impacted UK Shopper Behaviour

Misha Pabari

March 5, 2021

person holding credit card

Non-essential stores – including fashion, furniture, toy and home improvement stores – were closed for four months or more in the UK in 2020 due to COVID-19 lockdown measures. Our newly launched consumer polling survey measures how lockdown has impacted UK shopper behaviour, as well as how this behaviour will continue to change in 2021.

Below we share some of the most interesting lockdown shopper trends that have emerged in the past 12 months.

The switch from offline to online, particularly in older age groups

We asked consumers how their shopping behaviour changed in 2020 compared to previous years. Lockdown led shoppers in all age and gender groups to buy products online that they would normally purchase in store.

Given the closure of non-essential retail stores it came as no surprise that 54% admitted to specifically having bought more online in the past year, with just under 60% of female respondents admitting to have visited physical stores less and shopping online instead. This percentage was higher in the 55-64 and 65+ age groups, likely for two reasons: older shoppers bought online less than the average previously, and were most likely to be shielding in 2020 and more reliant on home deliveries.

In addition to noting how UK shopper behaviour had changed, we asked our respondents how they expect their shopping habits to change in 2021, in a bid to provide evidence that the shift to online shopping that took place in 2020 will not completely reverse once lockdown ends.

37% believe they will visit physical stores less often in 2021, which is no surprise given that lockdown was still in place when the survey was conducted. Again, older age groups were the most likely to report they would switch to buying online for products previously bought in stores (38% of the 65+ group said this compared to only 22% of the 18-25 group).

UK Shopper Behaviour: Online share of spend will rise in 2021

The UK Office for National Statistics estimates that 35.2% of all retail spending took place online in January 2021. This is up by more than half on January 2020, when the figure stood at 19.5%.

When asked how much they expect to spend on shopping online in 2021, 39% of respondents expect to spend more online than in the previous year, backing up our prediction that online spend will continue to rise in 2021 despite the planned reopening of non-essential stores in the coming months.

The 25-34 and 35-44 age groups were the most likely to predict they would spend a lot more online, at 16% and 14% respectively. 18-24 year olds were the most likely to expect to spend a lot less online; 11% said this compared to an average of 4% across all ages.

online share of spend

Online plays a crucial role for most categories

Certain product categories proved popular online in lockdown – as people bought items to help them work, exercise, and entertain themselves whilst at home. Our survey on UK shopper behaviour broke down the online retail types that consumers made purchases from in 2020 as well as who they expect to make purchases from in 2021.

The results show how important online channels are in some categories. Clothing, shoes & accessories, and food & pantry were the two categories where omnichannel retailers are far preferred over pureplay etailers and Amazon. Only 21% of respondents expect to buy no clothes, shoes & accessories online in 2021. Only 34% expect to buy no food or pantry items online, though food stores have remained open throughout lockdown.

As brands and retailers consider the changes to UK shopper behaviour, they will be expected to reassess their ecommerce strategies for the longer term. For those looking to prepare themselves for the ‘new normal’, having the right capabilities to adapt and strengthen your existing offerings and drive channel shifts is essential.

Download our UK Shopper Report here to see the full results from our survey on how online shopper behaviour has changed in the last 12 months, and predictions for the year ahead.

Watch our on-demand webinar which gives a more detailed analysis of key differences by demographic, particularly by age and gender.

If you would like support on how to reassess your ecommerce strategy – or with optimising specific online channels such as your D2C site or marketplaces – please get in touch.

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