Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Nearly half of UK consumers plan to shop exclusively online in the lead-up to Christmas

A survey of 1,000+ UK consumers, by leading recommendation platform Outbrain, has uncovered the British public’s intended shopping habits in the lead-up to Christmas. Key findings include:

·  48% of consumers plan to shop exclusively online this holiday season

o   This compares to only 6% of consumers who are planning to shop exclusively in-store

·  When it comes to brand values encouraging consumer purchases for Black Friday/Cyber Weekend:

o 49% say their decision is based on how easy the brand is to find

o 43% say the sustainability and eco-friendliness of the brand is important

o 32% favour brands that support diversity and inclusion

·  Only 2% of consumers said loyalty programs was an important factor when shopping

o Price (24%) and discounts (17%) ranked as the two most important factors for consumers

·  50% of consumers admit speed of delivery influences their purchase decisions over free/discounted shipping

In the lead-up to the year’s busiest shopping season, research by Outbrain has revealed that nearly half of consumers are planning to shop exclusively online. The news comes as the UK high street attempts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic by encouraging consumers to return to bricks and mortar shops.

Based on a survey of 1,000+ UK consumers, the leading recommendation platform for the open web revealed 48% of consumers will be shopping exclusively online. This compares to only 6% of consumers who are planning to shop exclusively in-store. 

Brand values will also play a role informing the brand that consumers purchase. According to Outbrain’s survey, 49% say their decision is based on how easy the brand is to find. Sustainability and eco-friendliness of the brand is important for 43%, while a third (32%) prefer brands that support diversity and inclusion.

When it comes to factors influencing their shopping decisions, a quarter (24%) said price was the most important factor, followed by discounts (17%). When it came to the least important factors, only 2% of consumers acknowledged loyalty programmes as a motivating factor when shopping with a brand.

Finally, the speed of delivery is also key when it comes to consumers purchasing decisions, with half (50%) of consumers admitting this factor is more important than free/discounted shipping offers.

James Milne, Managing Director of Northern Europe at Outbrain, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed consumer shopping habits. Outbrain’s research shows that this holiday season, nearly half of consumers will exclusively shop online instead of visiting a physical retail store. No doubt, this stems from the convenience and accessibility on offer from online shopping. The transition to online shopping is by no means a new experience, but it has been accelerated over the last 18 months by the pandemic. According to a UK government briefing from May, internet sales as a proportion of retail sales has risen by 8% since April 2020.”

Interestingly, simply having an online offering will not be enough to entice customers moving forward. Speed of delivery is a top influencing factor, with consumers less concerned about free or discounted shipping offers if this means a longer delivery time. Brand values will also influence their shopping decisions, which consequently means that retailers cannot simply rely on discounts this holiday season. Consumers want to engage with retailers who have a positive brand image and are actively giving back to the community through inclusion and ESG initiatives.”

The results are from Outbrain’s Consumer Insights for the 2021 Holiday Shopping Season survey, which surveyed more than 8,000 consumers worldwide, across the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Israel, and found that speed of delivery has now topped the list of consumer expectations. Globally, 52% of consumers ranked speed of delivery as influencing their purchase decisions, followed by 38% of respondents valuing free/discounted shipping. When making purchasing decisions, shoppers globally are driven by certain brand values, with 54% valuing brand accessibility/availability, followed by sustainability (47%) and brands that support local businesses (43%).