How Did Store Closures Impact The Way Brits Shopped?

Christian Thomson
LinkedIn

Christian is a British-born entrepreneur and founder of Marwick. For over 19 years, Christian has successfully helped businesses excel in digital marketing.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, it dramatically changed how brits shopped. All non-essential stores were closed for several months over three separate lockdowns. As a result, brits had no choice but to pivot to online shopping. But, interestingly, when shops reopened post-lockdown, many consumers chose to continue shopping online.

Why are Brits Choosing to Shop Online?

Consumers shopping online had a significant impact on the retail industry. The eCommerce market in the UK in 2021 was worth £693 billion, a sharp increase compared to the previous year. Those who previously visited brick and mortar stores were forced to buy goods online during the worst of the pandemic. In this time, they found that online shopping offered greater choice, convenience, price and speed than shopping in-store with a single retailer. So, let’s delve a little deeper into why brits continue to shop online.

Choice

Online shopping gives consumers much greater choice than shopping in a single brick and mortar store. As a result, brands such as Amazon are attracting a growing number of customers because they can purchase a wide variety of goods in one place seamlessly.

Convenience

Today, consumers value convenience more than ever. For example, Google found that global searches for terms like “curbside pickup” grew by a staggering 3000 per cent between 2019 and 2020. 

Speed

Consumers also favour online shopping because it is much faster than visiting a brick and mortar store. They can order the items they need straight to their doorstep in just a few clicks. In many cases, items arrive as soon as the next day.

Price

Consumers can also access better deals online, which will become increasingly important to shoppers because of the cost of living crisis.

Who is Shopping Online?

You might expect that most consumers shopping online are those classed as digital natives, referring to millennials and Generation Z. But, interestingly, it isn’t only digital natives choosing to shop online—people of all ages are shopping online. In 2020, almost all age groups increased their online spending significantly. For example, those aged over 65 made considerably more online purchases online in 2020 than they did the previous year. In 2019, 54 per cent of respondents aged over 65 made a purchase online. In 2020, this figure grew to 65 per cent. This data reveals that online shopping is not confined to one age demographic; almost all UK consumers are shopping online more often.

How Has the Shift to Online Shopping Affected Retailers?

Retailers that did not prioritise online shopping have needed to change their strategies to align with consumer needs. During the lockdowns, many retailers hastily introduced online shopping or click and collect services to ensure consumers could access the items they needed. After the lockdowns, consumers continued to use these services because of their convenience.

How Does Online Shopping Affect the High Street?

Naturally, the growth in online shopping affects the high street, which was already struggling pre-pandemic. Post-lockdown, many retail chains have been forced to close many of their shops because of significantly reduced footfall as customers increasingly choose to shop online. Retailers like Cath Kidston and John Lewis had to either close their stores entirely or reduce the number of stores significantly to remain competitive. In today’s retail environment, retailers must prioritise their online shopping platforms and click and collect services or risk losing customers to brands that do.

Final Thoughts

With 93.4 per cent of consumers visiting an online retail store in the past 30 days, retailers simply cannot afford to not prioritise online shopping. The coronavirus pandemic directly contributed to the acceleration of the shift towards online shopping, and it shows no sign of stopping.

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