Consumer shopping habits expected to change permanently following coronavirus crisis

The shopping habits of UK consumers have been permanently altered by the coronavirus lockdown, reveals new research commissioned by global commerce services company PFS.

The survey looks at changes in online purchasing behaviour as well as consumer perceptions and expectations of brands around the pandemic. 

Consumer behaviour

In a poll of 2,000 UK-based adults, three in five (60 per cent) said they have purchased more goods since the lockdown began than they did before, with 53 per cent shopping more online. More than three quarters (77 per cent) of those who have increased their e-commerce spending say that they expect to continue this habit once the lockdown is lifted. 

Meanwhile, 39 per cent of respondents also reported that they had been encouraged to purchase products online that they had not considered before, such as pet food and shoes. This figure increased to 61 per cent for Generation Z and over half (52 per cent) for Millennials, which is good news for online retailers.

Conversely, 50 per cent of shoppers report unsatisfactory online shopping experiences resulting in them being left disappointed by unavailable products. This rises to 75 per cent of Gen Z and 63 per cent of Millennials. Over a third (36 per cent) say they struggled with online grocery deliveries in particular and have failed to obtain a delivery slot. 

When it comes to non-essential items, a quarter (26 per cent) of the consumers polled said that their purchasing of clothing online has decreased since the lockdown while 18 per cent have bought fewer cosmetics and luxury goods online. Technology purchases have also decreased for 19 per cent of all respondents. Over half (53 per cent) said they are spending less on fashion because they aren’t going out.

Consumer perceptions

When asked about their perceptions of responses to the pandemic by brands, 52 per cent of the consumers polled agreed that they feel greater loyalty towards those that are effectively communicating  and showing that they are helping people during this time. This increases to 54 per cent of Baby Boomers and 59 per cent of the Silent Generation. 

A quarter (25 per cent) of shoppers said they had tried new online retailers because of the lockdown and intend to continue to shop with them thanks to the good experience they’ve received. This rises to 32 per cent for Gen Z and 35 per cent of Millennials. 

Meanwhile, over half (54 per cent) said they will be less likely to spend money with brands and retailers in the future that have treated their staff poorly during the coronavirus.

“Brick and mortar retailers need to prepare now for this forced acceleration in the migration to online shopping.” 

 Delivery times

While expectations on delivery times have eased slightly, consumers still expect their items to reach them quickly during this challenging period. Seven in ten (71 per cent) shoppers expect their items to reach them within a week (compared to 90 per cent normally). Breaking this down further, 14 per cent expect their items to be delivered in no more than two days during the lockdown (compared to 29 per cent usually) and 29 per cent expect deliveries to take no more than 3-5 days (compared to 36 per cent normally).

Zach Thomann, executive vice president and general manager at PFS, comments: “Our research has identified that the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown will have a lasting impact on the shopping habits of UK consumers. Other than for groceries, people in the UK have had no alternative but to shop online to get what they want, with many consumers looking to online shopping to alleviate boredom. Many have liked this new experience and intend to continue to shop this way, even after the lockdown has ended. Brick and mortar retailers need to prepare now for this forced acceleration in the migration to online shopping.

“Our findings also show that consumers will both reward and punish brands in accordance with their response to the pandemic. Those that are there for their customers, staff and the community will be rewarded with brand loyalty and repeat purchasing. Shoppers will turn away from brands that are not behaving ethically during this period though and are likely to vote with their wallets in favour of more trustworthy competitors. There really is no excuse for not being a responsible company. We are seeing the beginnings of a new world order for retail. It’s vital that business leaders think about the long-term implications of the lockdown and not just the short-term impact of our current restrictions.”

More information about the research can be found here.

 Photo by Kate Trifo on Unsplash