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UK shoppers most likely to buy only online – but going to the shops remains popular for many: study

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UK shoppers are the most likely to buy only online, a new survey suggests – but many still want to buy in-store.

Some 17% of British respondents said they shop exclusively online – the highest level of any of the markets around the world that YouGov investigated in its International Omnichannel Retail Report 2021. The report looks at shopping habits throughout the pandemic and what they mean for the future of retail. It questioned just over 1,000 people in each of 17 countries, including 1,012 in the UK, who were surveyed between January 11 and February 22 this year. It found that going to shops to buy remains popular, despite the rising appeal of online shopping.

In most countries, shoppers prefer to buy online or in a store, as needed; an average of 74% had bought through both channels in the previous three months. Stores are used by an average of 86% of respondents, and 81% shop online. 

Respondents in two countries said they had shopped online more than they did offline in the previous 90 days. In Great Britain 86% had shopped online and 77% offline, and in China  91% had shopped online and 89% offline. While the UK had the highest proportion of shoppers who only buy online, Australia has the highest proportion (22%) that only shop in person, although this was partly as a result of the pandemic and retail restrictions in the country. 

Only one in five (22%) of those Britons who wanted to buy their clothes in person said they were able to during the third lockdown. The most popular reasons why shoppers want to shop in-store include to physically experience a product (62%) and to try a product in-store (53%). But 35% said their ability to socially distance was a key barrier to returning to buy in-store. 

Adam Guiney, director of customer experience at YouGov, says: “When looking at the data for the white paper, it was striking to see that, despite the huge online retail boom during the pandemic, bricks and mortar retail is still more popular in many categories – for example textiles and clothing – and therefore has a great chance of rebounding; it is just a question of when. 

“Our study aims to help outlets and brands understand the dynamics of the retail sector, which has never been shaken as much as it has been during the past year. Understanding consumer needs and the interplay between bricks and mortar and online retail in meeting those needs will be key for brands and retailers to identify potential, overcome barriers and focus on opportunities.”

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