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How the UK’s Shopping Habits have Changed in the COVID-19 Era

When COVID-19 began spreading across the world in 2020, no one could have predicted the full impact it would have on everyone’s day-to-day lives. A year has passed since the world seemingly stopped and it has given us plenty to reflect on.

In the UK, there have been multiple lockdowns, both national and regional, and these have affected many businesses from all industries. Restrictions are yet to be lifted completely and the behavior of consumers has shifted within the last year and continues to do so.

One thing that has certainly changed during this time is the shopping habits of consumers, with many retail businesses forced to close their doors throughout the different lockdown periods and operate differently. This prompted CallCare to survey 800 UK residents to ask how their shopping habits had changed throughout 2020 and whether their customer service expectations are different.

In this blog post, we’re going to take a look at some of the survey results in detail to see what it takes for businesses to be successful in the COVID-19 era.

Shopping for Essential Items

Not surprisingly, the majority of consumers were choosing to shop online throughout the majority of 2020 for essential items. 51% of respondents said they had chosen this shopping method over buying essential items from physical shops such as supermarkets, farm shops, or local retailers that were all allowed to stay open.

Being able to shop online was beneficial for both brands and consumers, as it meant people could still buy their essential shopping items while remaining safe from the virus. Businesses that offered online shopping were likely to have seen an increase in sales compared to those unable to offer this shopping method even once lockdown restrictions began to ease up.

This method of shopping could alter consumers’ behavior, influencing those who may have preferred to visit stores in person for essential items which could have a lasting impact. Buying essential items online offers a convenience to many people that physically shopping in-store can’t.

Researching Items before Buying

Shopping safely from the comfort of home was one of the benefits of online shopping, but another benefit was that it allowed shoppers to do thorough research into a product or service before purchasing it. 29% of respondents said they spend one to two hours looking into their purchase before proceeding with it, which is something that in-store shopping can’t offer.

Although shoppers can still research a purchase before heading into a store to buy it, online shopping makes it easy to compare items often side by side on some websites. For many shoppers, purchasing items in-store is often done impulsively, whereas shopping online gives them more time to think about the purchase.

Spending More on Online Shopping

During the stricter lockdowns when non-essential shops were closed and people were unable to see family and friends, people found different ways to keep themselves occupied. Some people turned to new hobbies and interests, while others chose to spend their time shopping online.

However, the survey showed that 40% of people thought they spent roughly the same amount of money they did prior to the very first lockdown. The survey also found that it was people aged 16 and 34 who were spending the most online, which is not surprising as people in this age bracket are also more likely to use apps from their mobile and tablet devices to make purchases.

Have Consumers’ Expectations about Customer Service Changed?

There was a lot of uncertainty in 2020 and a lot of companies had to adapt their processes to allow the business to continue as best it could. Some businesses took this opportunity to step up and humanize their brand and help consumers wherever possible during what was the most difficult period in many people’s lives.

By stepping up and being there for consumers, many businesses have found themselves with customers who will be loyal for a very long time. Adapting to consumers’ needs will have changed people’s opinions and expectations of brands undoubtedly.

Interestingly, the top three qualities that many UK shoppers still look for in a brand are ‘value for money,’ ‘overall reputation,’ and ‘good customer service.’

It is worth noting that the survey did find that more people are concerned about the amount of personal information they share with businesses online. With more people shopping online in 2020 than any year before, it’s not surprising that more than 7 out of 10 are reluctant in handing this data over so easily.

Will Shoppers Continue to Buy Online throughout 2023?

Although many people in the UK have been eager for non-essential shops to open their doors, the survey found that a huge 61% of respondents would still choose to shop online for all items.

While people may enjoy the whole shopping experience, it seems as though most shoppers are preferring to shop online as it’s a more convenient, easy, and safer option to shopping in-store. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues in the later part of 2022 and beyond.

Ajeet Sharma, the founder of Financegab and a well-known name in the field of financial blogging. Blogging since 2017, he has the expertise and excellent knowledge about personal finance. Financegab is all about personal finance which aims to create awareness among people about personal finance and help them to make smart, well-informed financial decisions.


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