Despite many UK shops now expected to reopen on 15 June, the COVID-19 crisis is driving a new wave of online consumers as two in five (42%) people say they will shop online more frequently after lockdown ends.
E-commerce platform ChannelAdvisor and research firm Dynata surveyed 1,033 UK consumers. The results found that while many were turning to the internet for essential items, 40% of shoppers were also purchasing luxury items such as fashion items or electronics, offering an optimistic lifeline for brands suffering from bricks and mortar closures.
There were signs that many previously ambivalent online shoppers will stick with e-commerce after the crisis ended. Before the crisis, 45% of respondents said they shopped online occasionally or rarely - this rose to 70% among shoppers aged 56 years or older.
Yet nearly a third (31%) of this older group now predict that after lockdown they will shop online more frequently than they did before March 2020 - just 6% said they would likely shop in store more frequently after lockdown ends.
Three in five (59%) of 26-35 year olds predicted they would shop online more often in the long term, compared to 42% of 36-45 year olds and 37% of 46-55 year olds.
Consumers across all age groups reported that they were shopping online more frequently during lockdown, with nearly two thirds (63%) of 26-35 year olds, half (48%) of 36-45 year olds and and two in five (41%) of people over 56 years old purchasing more items online.
When asked to describe their online shopping habits at present, more than a third (36%) say they are treating themselves to luxury goods, as well as essential items. This rose to 45% for both 18-25 and 26-35 year olds, and 42% of 36-45 year olds. A quarter (27%) of all respondents have spent more than £300 online in the last two months on items aside from groceries, while 25% had purchased from retailers they had not shopped with before.
The results also offer hope for fashion brands. When asked which items, excluding groceries, they predict they will purchase online next, fast fashion items such as jeans or dresses were the third most popular choice after books/hobby items and essential beauty goods.
However, among 18-25 year olds fashion items were the most popular prediction for their next online purchase.
ChannelAdvisor’s research also revealed different habits between genders. Nearly a third (31%) of women said they had purchased beauty or haircare products online since the start of March compared to 19% of men. ChannelAdvisor’s platform data saw the health and beauty sector experience strong year-on-year growth throughout March and April as salons closed and consumers stayed indoors.
34% of respondents had purchased books and hobby items online, while the same proportion had bought medical supplies such as paracetamol and hand sanitiser. Men were almost twice as likely as women to purchase electrical items such as computers and iPads (27% compared to 14% respectively).
More than half (51%) of respondents said they have purchased items online for others since the outbreak of the crisis. According to the data 26-35 year olds are the group most likely to purchase items on behalf of others (60% had bought goods online for someone else) and women more likely than men (54% compared to 47% respectively).
Jon Maury, EMEA Managing Director for ChannelAdvisor, explains: “While some shops may reopen on 15 June, the instore experience will likely be quite different to what many consumers are used to and these results indicate that digital channels will continue to offer a lifeline for retailers and brands. Lockdown has driven many consumers online in search of essential and luxury goods and there are signs that many will continue shopping online, particularly older consumers who tend to have more disposable income. Brands that provide a convenient online service will win the loyalty of this new wave and keep them coming back, even if shoppers are slow to flock to the high street once lockdown ends.”