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UK ecommerce outpaces global average as shoppers spend faster than ever

Image: AdobeStock

The UK’s ecommerce spending in Q1 grew by 54% YoY, reaching £28bn in spend. This is considerably faster than the global average – for comparison, US online sales grew 39% YoY, and the global average growth figure was 38%.

According to the latest Adobe Digital Economy Index, the pandemic has accelerated a surge in online spending, with global ecommerce reaching £635bn in Q1 2021 alone, up significantly at 38% YoY growth in dollar terms.  This quarterly figure is higher than the annual GDP of Switzerland ($825bn), ranking 18th highest in the world. At current growth rates, Adobe forecasts that global eCommerce will hit $4.2trn in 2021 – equivalent to the 5th highest GDP in the world.

Analysis based on direct transaction data in over 80 countries across  the Americas, APAC and EMEA, found that in March 2021, UK consumers spent faster than ever, spending £217,000 per minute online during the quarter. They also became more proficient with ordering online, with revenue per minute spent in an online store growing by 21% YoY .

As UK shoppers stayed home more, web visits grew by 29% YoY. The share of web visits that resulted in someone ordering a product, increased by 18% YoY.

UK ecommerce also attracted a significant amount of new consumers online in 2020: 15% of consumers that shopped online in March this year had never bought anything online before lockdown restrictions came into force in March 2020.

Online retail reported high satisfaction ratings, above 79%, across all categories, including groceries, clothing, books, toys and appliances.  The majority (83%) state that delivery times of online purchases meet or exceed expectations. Some 63% of people have shopped online to help relieve stress during the pandemic, finds the study. This is particularly prominent in GenZ (54%) and millennials (43%).

Convenience is also king when it comes to online shopping, with almost half (44%) of shopping now done on a smartphone, while 45% of people have done more online shopping during the pandemic because they feel it is safer and only 42% say they will attend a shopping centre/mall in the next six months.

According to Adobe, 26% of consumers feel less comfortable visiting physical stores compared with 2020; 27% feel more comfortable. However, following vaccination, 31% plan to spend more time in stores than they do currently.

That said, shoppers remain cautious, with 53% favouring stores that enforce strict virus protection policies, like requiring masks to enter, limiting numbers and conforming to social distancing guidance.

As many as 42% anticipate the online/in-store shopping habits formed during lockdown to remain the same when things return to more normal, pre-pandemic conditions, while more consumers said they shopped online for safety reasons, than because it provided greater choice, value and convenience. 

Meanwhile, 47% said they shopped more online “to avoid crowds” and 45% said “because it was safer”, compared with 26% that said it was to get the best price; 20% to get the best selection; and 26% because it was an “easier way to shop”.

What are they buying

What consumers are spending on and how that will continue has also been mapped by Adobe. It found that grocery, homeware, healthcare and clothing are all doing well online.

Reflecting the differing restrictions imposed through the pandemic, the UK remains ahead of the US in grocery shopping online– 39% of consumers prefer to shop for groceries online compared with 27% of US consumers. Two thirds (66%) of UK consumers bought groceries online more than once per month, and report high degrees of satisfaction with the process and intend to continue shopping online for groceries in the future.

Despite 61% of people preferring to shop for groceries in person, nearly half of respondents (48%) did their grocery shopping online in January; 38% say they did more online grocery shopping than pre-pandemic.

87% of people purchasing groceries online are satisfied with their shopping experience; post pandemic, the majority (67%) will continue to regularly shop online.

Shining a light on the growing opportunity for clothing retailers, 52% of people have bought less clothes in the past month than they would normally spend. However and encouragingly, over a quarter (26%) anticipate they will spend more than usual on clothing over the next four week period.

Whilst garden centres remained open in England throughout lockdown, a significant 47% continued to purchase garden products online – demonstrating a shift in purchase behaviour and how online may be here to stay in some categories.

Despite essential retail remaining open (such as pharmacies and retail deemed essential) throughout lockdown, 45% of people are buying more health products online and 41% are buying prescription drugs and medical equipment (44%) online more.

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