Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Brits browsing longer and buying fewer products

New research from Retail Economics and FreedomPay shows that Brits are taking longer to decide
which products they want to buy, amid continued pressures on personal finances. More than a third of shoppers (33.7%) have increased the amount of time they spend investigating items in the past year before then going on to purchase. This significantly overshadows the one in 10 who have cut back their time ‘browsing’, typically in a bid to avoid the temptation of buying non-essentials.

On balance, Brits are dedicating an additional 35 minutes per week to ‘browsing’ and comparing products versuslast year, which equates to an extra one and a half days per year. This marks a 17.6% year-on-year increase in time dedicated to researching, price comparing and seeking out the best deals for non-food products across physical and digital channels, to an average of around four hours per week per person.
But the extra time leading up to the point of purchase is not leading to increased sales, with the amount of actual non-food products bought down by 5.7% on last year.

Shoppers are twice as likely to be using the additional browsing time by researching online rather than in-store, which has increased by over a quarter (28.3%) compared with last year. But over the past year, there has been disproportionate decline in online retail sales, with non-food ecommerce volumes falling 14.9% year-on-year. This suggests customer journeys have become more complex across channels, with shoppers spending more time to research online, with the ultimate intention of purchasing in-store.

It comes as 86% of shoppers who say that they “shop almost entirely online” are considering shopping with new retailers for the first time to save money because of the challenging economic backdrop, compared to 71% of those “who shop almost entirely in-store”.

Probably unsurprisingly, more time deciding whether to purchase products is being driven by recessionary shopping behaviours, including greater hesitancy, price sensitivity and cutting back on other activities. Among shoppers who are spending more time ‘browsing’, 39.8% are doing so in search for deals; 35.1% are spending more time making sure products are worth buying; and 25.1% are using their time in this way because they cut back on other activities such as socialising.

Age is a key driver of changes in this ‘browsing’ behaviour – more so than gender, geography or affluence. Half of the shoppers spending more time ‘browsing’ compared to last year are under the age of 35 years old. People aged between 25 and 35 are dedicating around six hours per week to researching and comparing products across stores, online and other media such as TV and print. This is more than double the amount of time spent by those 55 and older.

FreedomPay’s President Chris Kronenthal commented: “This new research validates FreedomPay’s perspective on the future of retail that merchants demand a seamless, true omnichannel experience to serve the modern-day shopper both online and offline. Payment evolution is accelerating rapidly and it’s imperative to have a fully connected economy, technology and data will become the currency of the new digital era.”

Retail Economics Chief Executive Richard Lim said: “Households have adopted a relentless focus on value as stubbornly high levels of inflation and rising interest rates continues to squeeze finances. Shoppers are spending considerably more time searching for the best deals, cheapest prices and most competitive retailers before committing to a purchase.

“However, more time researching online has not resulting in higher ecommerce sales. As retailers battle for shoppers’ attentions, the winners are those offering the most sophisticated digital proposition which also underpins the in-store customer experience. The data shows people are turning back to physical retail in a bid to secure the lowest prices and in some cases avoid the unnecessary cost of online deliveries and returns. But for many, the moment of discovery, inspiration and intent to purchase is being made online”.