This year has been one of monumental change, and that’s of course largely down to the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic. With more people than ever before working from home, and social distancing measures putting a halt to many everyday activities, people have dramatically changed the way they live. 


Online shopping has been a huge area of growth in the past year, with many more consumers choosing to shop online wherever possible. But how far has this shift towards online shopping changed consumer behaviour, and where has it had the biggest impact? 


Our London-based courier service recently completed extensive consumer research on the subject, to find out exactly how this year’s shopping habits differ from those of the previous years. The research was conducted in October 2020, surveying 2,000 adults across the UK. 

Research Highlights:
How have online shopping habits changed in 2020?


Online shopping has been on the rise for many years now, but the events of 2020 have rapidly increased growth in the sector. Our research has revealed that a huge number of adults have shopped online more this year, with 69% of the survey’s respondents agreeing that they had done so. Over a third of respondents (36%) had spent up to £50 more per month on online shopping than they had in the previous year. 


The goods most often purchased online have been quite different in 2020 than they had been in previous years, too. This year, 36% of consumers have spent more on retail, groceries, 26% spent more on DIY and garden supplies and 23% spent more on pharmacy products. The research also showed that 21% ordered more cosmetics online, and 20% of consumers purchased more alcohol online than they previously would have done. 


The move towards online shopping hasn’t been equal across all groups of consumers, however. Women ordered more products online in 2020 than men. The research found that 72% of female respondents had increased their online shopping. For men the figure was slightly less – but still substantial – at 65%. 


Age was another determining factor in how people shopped in 2020. Older age groups have traditionally been less inclined to shop online than younger demographics, but in 2020 this changed. The largest increase in online shopping was found amongst consumers aged 55 or over. In this group, 66% spent more than they had done in previous years, with the average monthly spend rising by £53.55. 


The rise in online shopping amongst older demographics is likely due to the increased risk that the virus has posed for these shoppers. As a result, this group of consumers has been taking particular care to avoid busy shops as much as possible. It’s also worth noting that this age group would have been starting from a lower base level of online shopping than other groups, which could also contribute to the greater comparative rise for this demographic. 


In terms of regional differences, there are notable changes across different areas too. The greatest change was seen in Scotland, where 74% of consumers shopped online more than they had done in previous years. The average additional online spend for Scottish consumers was £50.79 per month. 


Gender: The shift in shopping habits for each gender 


There have always been notable differences in shopping habits for men and women, but recent events have made the shift in online shopping preferences for each gender even more noticable. Female shoppers reported the greatest spend on online shopping, with 14.17% spending over £111 on products each month. For men, this number was slightly lower, at 11.85%. 


Larger numbers of men ordered products online for the first time this year, with 9.55% of men ordering cosmetics for the first time, 10.39% ordering DIY products for the first time and 10.60% ordering garden items for the first time in 2020. 


For women, the trend towards online shopping was clear, with 31.78% reporting spending more online than they had done before. Men also, in general, spent more, with 27.79% saying that they had spent “a lot more” on online shopping over the past year. 


Age: Key differences in shopping habits of different demographics 


Across all age groups, the majority of consumers surveyed reported spending “a little more” on online shopping in 2020. The figures for different age groups ranged from 36.28% for those aged 55 or over, to 42.57% for those aged 45-54. While the younger demographic of those aged 18-24 also, on the whole, spent more, the increase was a little more subdued at 37.14%. 


The demographic which reported spending the most on online shopping was those aged 55 or over. In this group, 17.58% of consumers spent over £111 shopping online each month. Those aged 35-44 also increased their online spending significantly, with 14.23% reporting spending over £111 per month over the course of the year. 


Region: Where have shopping habits changed the most this year? 


Online shopping has increased across the whole of the UK, but some regions have seen a greater increase than others. Of those surveyed, the greatest number of shoppers who spent “a lot more” online this year were those who live in London. The research revealed that 36.36% of London consumers spent significantly more online over the course of the year. Other regions which experienced a large increase were Wales (32.32%), the East Midlands (32.39%) and the South East (31.65%). 


The shoppers spending the most on online products this year were those in the North West, where 17.27% spent over £111 per month online. The research also showed that shoppers in Northern Island purchased a significant number of products online this year, with 18.42% of those surveyed reporting that they had also spent over £111 per month. 


On average, the region which experienced the biggest surge in online shopping was Scotland, where almost three quarters (74%) of shoppers chose to spend money on online products rather than visit their nearest retail outlets. 



Shopping habits have been massively impacted by the ongoing global pandemic. With periods of lockdown forcing vast numbers of non-essential shops to close, shoppers all over the country have had no choice but to look online for the products that they need. 


Even the lifting of lockdown measures in the summer didn’t see shoppers flocking back to the high streets. In fact, considerable numbers of consumers still chose to remain at home and order products online. This shift was particularly noticeable amongst older demographics, who are more at risk from the virus than younger consumers. 


Our research demonstrates the real impact that the pandemic has had on our shopping habits, and gives a clear picture of the likelihood of consumer behaviour trending towards online shopping over the coming winter months. It remains to be seen whether or not the preference for online shopping will continue over the course of next year and beyond, but it’s safe to say that online shopping is growing rapidly at the moment, and this rise isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon.