The UK: a nation of online shoppers

Online Shopping OMD

According to TouchPoints 4, UK consumers are a nation of online shoppers

Where once my journey home would have involved fighting for pavement space with a limitless number of West End bargain hunters and wrestling for a seat on the tube with an overindulgent shopper with an army of Selfridges bags, I’m increasingly noticing the absence of that shopper frenzy which was all too common a few years back.  So where have they all gone?

Whilst some have deserted the high street, it would be wrong to say that we have totally turned our back on retail therapy as a retail revolution is now occurring.

According to TouchPoints 4, the percentage of people shopping outdoors has declined across the whole week.  In 2008 39% of the population shopped outdoors on a Saturday i.e. in a supermarket, shopping centre or high street store.  Since the start of the financial crisis this has declined by 6 percentage points to 33% and we see a similar trend across the rest of the week, which has probably been driven to a large extent by the current economic climate.  But as the recession would have naturally led to a decrease in high street footfall, would this not drive more people online in the hope of finding better deals?

Online Shopping Slide 1 OMD


As consumers’ relationship with the high street has changed, so has their relationship with online.  Our online experiences are fundamentally different to those during the early days of the recession.  E-commerce is no longer just about choice, price, convenience, reviews and ratings, but also about everything that consumers look for in any purchase: status, the right product and a compelling experience.

So is it fair to say that e-commerce is hotter than ever?  Well this researcher says an unequivocal YES!!

Looking at TouchPoints 4 we find that on an average day 13.6m people are buying products and services online; this equates to 32% of the adult population and represents a 349% increase since 2008.

Online Shopping Slide 2 OMD

But let’s not stop there.  Since 2008 there has been a 21% increase in the number of weekly gross 30 minute online shopping occasions by UK consumers.  In total there are now over 32m weekly online shopping occasions and this is against a 30% decline for outdoor shopping occasions.

What we are seeing is a fundamental shift in consumerism as the UK shopper experiences this retail revolution, which is partly driven by price and increasingly driven by convenience and a compelling online shopping experience.

The average time we spend shopping online is 11 minutes per day compared to 29 minutes for instore shopping.  There is also a big difference in when we shop, with outdoor shopping peaking at midday, whilst online shopping peaks in the evening.  On an average day between 6.00pm-9.30pm over 6.5m people are shopping online, which represents a huge opportunity for the retail community.

For many of us online shopping is fast becoming the preferred retail option.  In many cases the online retail experience is more efficient, less stressful, often cheaper and at times more rewarding.

Answer this question if you please.  How excited do you get when the item you’ve ordered online is delivered?  That much right!  All we ever get in the post nowadays are bills, so when we receive something we’ve ordered online does that not put a smile on our faces and brighten up our day?  Online shopping can exploit the same emotional impact as in-store shopping.

This feel good factor with online shopping starts at the beginning of the journey.  According to TouchPoints 4, 89% of those who shop online do so in a good mood.  Now this is an emotion that high street retail stores have spent years and millions of pounds trying to engineer, so it does seem that online has a clear advantage, but it is fair to say that it has not yet fully exploit this opportunity.

TouchPoints 4 proves that consumers are in a ‘consume’ mind set at specific times, which means they are higher value and can be steered towards consumer concepts.  The fact that consumers are also in this heightened ‘good-mood state’ whilst also shopping online creates a unique opportunity to engage and excite them at a time when they are at their most responsive.  Whilst BOGOF deals may work well during the day, more creative concepts and brand lead strategies may be better in the evening when online shopping peaks.  This strengthens the case for activity driving to site to be both time targeted and digital.

According to a recent Ofcom report, UK consumers are more likely to buy something online than any other European country.  So as our obsession with e-commerce and now m-commerce continues we may see more and more brands favouring an online presence rather than a high street one.

Who knows what the next few years will bring.  Will the high street continue to be the powerhouse of UK consumer spending?  Will UK delivery services crumble under the growth in online shopping?  Will UK consumers return to the high street when the economy picks up?  Who knows! The only thing that is certain is that I now have a little bit more space on the tube and a lot more retailers in my online favorites list.


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