Jul 3, 2022
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Britons rein in online shopping as cost of living bites - report

Jul 3, 2022

As the cost-of-living crisis escalates, a “significant” section of the UK public has pulled back on online shopping in the last six months, a new report shows.


Data from consumer research platform Attest finds 26% of British shoppers have spent less money online in the last six months while 39% spent the same amount of money. Fortunately for the online retail industry, 34% admit to spending more, albeit possibly in expectations that prices will rise quickly in the future. 

The research shows that the booming growth seen by many online retailers during the pandemic could be “cut back down to size by the cost-of-living crisis”. It also finds a somewhat gloomy outlook in British consumer sentiment for online shopping for the next six months.

Nearly 28% of people think the amount they spend will fall in the run-up to Christmas, while 21% think it will increase, resulting in a net 7% of people who will be spending less online.

And even for the 50% of people who say their spending will stay the same, “their reduced spending power could lead to them being able to afford fewer purchases” the report predicts.

The biggest reduction in spending will be seen among the 35-44 age group (the most frequent online shoppers) and those aged 55-64. A net 14% of both age groups predict a drop in expenditure in the coming months. 

Meanwhile, just 11% of those in the 18-24 age bracket expect to increase what they will spend. 

“There are two ways to interpret this data; either people think they’ll favour online shopping over the high street — perhaps as a way to find better deals — or they’re anticipating having to spend more simply because of the rising cost of products,” the report says. 


So how do British consumers shop online? Nearly 88% of Britons have shopped D2C in the last six months, making an average of 3.9 purchases.
The single largest percentage of people (28%) spend between £26-£50 per month, while 21% spend less. The remaining 49% spend in excess of £50, although only 17% spend more than £100.

Currently, Britons are still shopping digitally “with high regularity” 46% at least once a week, while 21% e-shop fortnightly. People aged 35-44 are the most frequent online shoppers with 22% shopping more than once a week.

Of those with a “strong commitment” to buying online, the most popular sectors are technology (68%), clothing (61%), and health and fitness (57%).

Meanwhile, smartphone shopping continues to strengthen with 59% of Britons saying they most frequently use their mobiles to research or make purchases online, up from 51% in 2019. 

But laptops are down from 24% to 20%, tablets from 13% to 10%, and desktop computers from 11% to 8%.

Surprisingly, Britons are now prepared to wait longer for delivery than in 2019. The percentage of people who expect to wait no longer than a couple of days has fallen from 22% to 14%, and those prepared to wait in excess of five days has grown from 21% in 2019 to 28%. 


Comparing this year’s data to 2019, the percentage of shoppers who begin shopping via a search engine has risen from 34% to 37%. Previously, marketplaces were the top starting point but the power of Amazon appears to have waned (down from 37% to 33%). 

And the need to invest in research is underlined by a reduction in consumers heading directly to a preferred brand’s website when they want to buy something. Only 20% of people say they’re most likely to start a shopping journey in this way, down from 24% in 2019.

But social media has doubled in popularity as a starting point for e-shopping journeys, albeit rising from just 3% to 6%. Some 13% of those aged 18-25 habitually use social media as a starting point “suggesting it’s a growing trend so it makes sense for brands to enable shopping functions on their social media channels”, the report added.

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