Social distancing economy drives long-term shift towards online shopping, new study reveals

Half (49%) of UK shoppers say they’ve discovered a new form of online shopping during lockdown, with 81% set to continue this trend in the future

A new study has found a shift towards discovering new stores and goods online during the peak of COVID in the UK, with almost half the population (49%) saying they’ve discovered at least one new form of online shopping – such as a new brand or app site –  they want to continue. A further 37% reported that they’d discovered at least one new online store with a staggering 81% planning to continue this shift to online for the future.

Where are they spending their time and money? The results, published by Criteo, a technology company powering marketers with trusted and impactful advertising, showed that 40% said they’d discovered new grocery and online supermarkets, 35% said they’d explored the online counterparts to the usual physical stores they visit and 32% reported discovering small merchants during lockdown that they previously didn’t know about. This trend towards discovering online is also apparent across all generations. Gen Z (56%) were most likely to have discovered a new online store, followed by millennials (43%), Gen X (34%) and boomers (27%).

The findings from the report reveal that shoppers are extremely likely to continue these online shopping behaviours in the long-term, with 81% saying they plan to continue purchasing from one or more of these stores. This is true across all age groups surveyed, with Gen X (86%) the most likely, followed by millennials (81%), Gen Z (80%) and boomers (76%).

For the vast majority of the population, life has changed significantly since COVID-19. As new challenges and priorities have emerged and the easing of lockdown restrictions have started, Criteo wanted to find out how people are feeling about the potential return to a new normal. The result? Although more than 6 in 10 (61%) of UK shoppers said they miss going to physical shops, almost half as many – only one third (34%) – said they feel ready to go back to a physical store in the next 2 months.

Meanwhile, there is also an increasing interest in the feel-good factor when it comes to using specific brands. Consumers looking at offerings that make them feel good, with 15% of new shoppers stating that local goods are the main reason they will continue to shop at these new outlets, with 14% citing good packaging, and 13% saying that newly discovered shops are making them feel valued.

Marc O’Fathaigh, Country Director UK at Criteo commented on the findings: “We anticipated a major shift towards online shopping during the peak of the pandemic but what’s most interesting here is consumers’ intentions to continue discovering new stores and goods online in the long-term. This is a new world for consumers, unlike anything we’ve seen for generations. So retailers have a real opportunity to appeal to their new sense of discovery online and create a relevant experience that keeps them engaged for the long-term. ”

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