Understanding the UK eCommerce market: Who are UK Shoppers, and What Makes Them Tick?

We know eCommerce is growing as a proportion of total retail sales in the UK, and that British consumers are shifting their buying routine to online retailers in ever-greater numbers.

Our shopper survey took a deeper look at exactly who is shopping online in the UK, which online stores and categories they prefer, and what are the key drivers that push them to login for their retail fix.

In some ways the results of our survey were not that surprising. UK shoppers have taken to the online channel like the proverbial duck to water.

Price and Convenience Driving Online Demand for UK Shoppers

Across all of our UK respondents, price was stated as the most important factor for using eCommerce sites versus shopping in-store. Over 45% of shoppers said price was the number one reason they shop online, with the ability to access deals and compare prices across stores mentioned as important factors across all age groups.

This is consistent with other markets such as US, where a similar proportion of shoppers indicated price was the number one driver. Convenience is also cited as key factor in moving from in-store to online shopping, but convenience significantly lags price with a quarter of respondents saying convenience is their number one reason for shopping online.UK Shopper Survey

When it comes to the online shopping experience,  content, product descriptions, and images are seen as central to engagement and the cornerstone of creating an attractive shopping experience, thus increasing the likelihood of purchase.

Download our in-depth UK Online Grocery Analysis 

Millennials Lead the Way in UK Online Shopping

The UK market harbours a high proportion of regular digital channel shoppers across all age groups, but younger consumers tend to shop online more frequently than their older counterparts do. More than two thirds (69%) of 18 to 34 year olds, in our sample, shop online at least once a week.

However, despite their relative youth, they are not spending their money on frivolities and adventure. The most frequent categories 18 to 34 year olds say they shop online include ambient and fresh groceries, household products, personal care products, and health and wellness products. Their preferred retailers are Amazon (68%), Tesco (26%), Argos (15%), and Asda (15%). They are also more likely to purchase pet products than any other age group.

As the harbinger for things to come in the online retail sector this cohort reflects the growing importance of mobile technology in the shopping experience. Thirty three percent of 18-34 year-olds use a mobile as their main online shopping device, while at least 13% prefer a tablet device.

Convenience Marks the Spot for Generation X

Coming in close behind millennials in the eCommerce stakes, Generation-Xers (35 to 54 year olds) are also active online shoppers. Sixty five per cent of UK respondents in the age group say they shop online at least once a week, but they are more likely to use a laptop or desktop PC to complete their purchases (69%).British Consumer Survey

Convenience and home delivery, are the most important drivers for this age group when it comes online shopping – 28% cited convenience as an important reason to shop online. However, they are also a bit more cautious about committing to a purchase online, preferring to use the digital channel as a way of researching products such as clothing, electronics, and groceries before opting to buy the goods in-store.

Older Buyers Opt for Traditional Retail Brands

Retailer preference marks the difference between the next age group in our study (over 55s) and younger consumers – the older group still browse Amazon (85%) and eBay (43%), but a significantly higher proportion will also opt for more traditional high-street retail brands such as Argos (19%), Marks & Spencer (15%), and John Lewis (8%) when doing their online shopping.

Their most frequently shopped categories are ambient and fresh groceries, pet and household products, but more likely on a monthly basis rather than weekly. Unsurprisingly this age group is also more likely to research and purchase Home & Garden items than any other group.

The laptop or desktop PC is their primary device (81%) for online shopping, and price is by far the most important driver for shopping online versus in-store. Fifty-two per cent cited Price as the number one reason to shop online as they can compare prices and deals quickly and easily across products and stores.

The continued growth of eCommerce is just one of the trends we expect be maintained in 2017. As more shoppers migrate online keeping track of their motivation and behaviour is one thing that help brands succeed in the changing retail environment.