Retail and hospitality top areas for consumer spending as restrictions lift, according to HubSpot research

  • 21% of UK consumers are planning to spend more this summer than they did pre-pandemic
  • More than £20bn set to be spent on ‘human touch’ experiences this summer
  • 52% of consumers want to shop in person again compared to 22% who want to keep it online
  • Engaging directly with a person is key to the rebound, 16% of sales are currently being lost as consumers abandon purchases if they can’t speak to someone about their questions before they buy 

UK retailers that have struggled over the past year will be pleased to hear that consumers are expecting to up their spending compared to pre-pandemic levels as COVID-19 restrictions inch towards being lifted and all adults being vaccinated.

The latest figures, based on new research from HubSpot, a Customer Relationship Management platform, revealed that over 1 in 5 UK consumers are planning to spend more money this summer than before the pandemic, estimating that UK consumers are set to spend £10.2bn* per month, or more than £20bn this summer, on ‘human touch’ experiences.

The study revealed that a third of UK consumers will be spending the most on dining out (33%) while 28% will be spending the most on indulging in retail therapy; proving to be a more popular option than shelling out on a UK seaside break (20%) or sporting and music events (15%).

Revealing the widespread impact of self-isolation on consumer attitudes after a year in which they have been denied in-person interactions due to lockdown restrictions, 52% of consumers want to shop in person again compared to 22% who would rather keep interactions while shopping virtual.

The risks of ignoring human touch

The findings also show that 16% of UK consumers have abandoned a purchase in the past year when they weren’t able to speak to someone from the brand to ask about their purchase. On top of this, over 1 in 10 (11%) have complained on social media or review sites about not being able to speak to someone when they had a question or a problem.

More positively, offering consumers the opportunity to speak to someone during the buying process can have a positive impact. Over half of UK consumers (51%) get that human touch feeling from a brand when they deal with friendly staff and 58% of consumers are more likely to shop with a given brand again if they can speak to someone during a purchase. Meanwhile, 51% are more likely to tell their friends about the experience if they receive the ‘human touch’.

Striking the right balance

To ensure success and realise the spending potential this summer, retailers will need to be mindful about reading the room when it comes to the type of experience consumers want. While 52% of them want to shop in-person again, worries about physical contact and large groups remain. 59% of consumers say they’ll be more cautious about physical touch of any form than pre-pandemic, while 49% say they feel uncomfortable engaging in activities that involve groups of more than 7 people and 29% are uncomfortable in groups of up to 6.

While 82% of UK consumers are comfortable with one to one interaction, large events are still off the table for a majority – with 72% uncomfortable engaging in activities that involve groups of 51-200 people and 74% unwilling to go to events with over a thousand attendees.

These results show that retailers will need to pay close attention to what their customers feel comfortable with and focus on smaller, personal interaction, keeping large events on ice.

Christian Kinnear, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, EMEA, HubSpot: “It is clear that UK consumers are ready and raring to not only get back to normal life, but to make up for lost time with friends and family, getting away on holiday or engaging in some well earned retail therapy.

“Key to this rebound will be ensuring consumers have the ability to engage with a retailer in a human way. While the pandemic forced everyone online, the re-opening will be about balancing digital services with the human touch we’ve all been craving. Retailers should not underestimate the value of their customer service teams and sales assistants in helping them make the most of the summer spending boom. Now is not the time to cut back on a businesses’ finest asset – its people.”

*The average amount of money that UK adults are willing to spend on ‘human touch experiences’ this summer is £157.37 – that’s a national total of £10.2bn per month or more than £20bn this summer (July & August).

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