E-commerce boom will speed up across Europe, UPS survey finds

March 24, 2021 | Group Marketing
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Europeans will continue shopping online more than ever this year, with delivery and sustainability as the two top purchase decision factors, according to the newly-released UPS Smart E-commerce Report 2021.

This means retailers will have to strengthen their e-commerce offering in response to more customers and rising expectations of convenience, it found. The study, conducted by YouGov in January this year, surveyed 10,000 consumers across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, and Poland.  

Higher online spending is here to stay 

The findings show a rise of 50% in European consumers who say they will do ‘all’ or ‘most’ of their shopping online once lockdown restrictions are eased (rising from 10% to 15%). At the same time, 40% say they intend to shop ‘all’ or ‘mostly’ in-store once restrictions are lifted, a drop of 26% compared to pre-pandemic. 

Enjoyment of shopping in-store (41%) and a more personal experience (38%) are still driving customers to shop in person, while convenience (48%) and cheaper prices (38%) are the key drivers to shopping online. 

Unsurprisingly, those aged 25 to 34, who are often seen as the first generation of ‘digital natives’, are more likely to continue shopping ‘all or mostly’ online once restrictions lift (22%) than those aged over 55 (10%).

The over 55s (56%) are also far more likely to buy clothes and/or footwear in-store, than the 18-24 group (34%). Consumers aged over 55 were also more likely to expect free returns when purchasing from larger retailers (62%), compared with 54% of 18-24 year-olds. This expectation dropped to 36% and 39% (respectively) for independent and local businesses.  

Large retailers are favourite

In terms of where European consumers shop online, large retailers are preferred over smaller, independent retailers and online marketplaces by the majority of consumers across all product categories.

However, 50% of consumers said they “want to help small businesses”. When shopping with those smaller, independent retailers, groceries (25%) and clothes/footwear (24%) were the most popular choice of goods. 

Delivery partner and sustainability play key roles

A retailer’s choice of delivery partner is the top decision factor for 85% of consumers, with 41% saying this will be a key driver in future purchases, the survey found.  

Sustainability is the next most important driver, for 75% of respondents. Consumers want to see retailers use sustainable packaging, with 54% expecting this of large brands and 50% expecting this from smaller brands. The demand for sustainable packaging is highest in Spain (64%) and the UK (63%), with 48% overall wanting to see large retailers reducing their carbon footprint. 

Consumers expect ‘Brexit effects’

When asked about Brexit, 66% of the 2,000 UK consumers surveyed believed products and goods bought from the EU would become more expensive, with 64% believing they will take longer to arrive due to new customs requirements.

Meanwhile, 72% of consumers from the EU countries surveyed said buying from the UK would become more expensive, with 69% believing shipping goods from the UK would take longer.

Brits will buy more groceries online

In the UK, there is a 67% rise in intent to shop all or mostly online post-pandemic. One of the biggest rises will be in online grocery shopping where the UK will see a 66% rise in those expecting to shop for groceries online.

Among other findings, the number of those over the age of 55 who will shop all or mostly online after the pandemic will double, while 62% of UK consumers will shop with a small or independent retailer for the sake of supporting small businesses (compared to the European average of 50%).

More than half (54%) of UK consumers will opt to buy online because of free delivery options and 63% said free returns are an important factor when choosing to shop online. In addition, 77% of UK consumers say sustainability is important when choosing who to shop with (and expect to see retailers taking steps toward carbon footprint reduction and sustainable packaging). 

Arthur Lam, Marketing Director at UPS UK, commented: “The pandemic has accelerated digital shopping trends in an unprecedented manner. As the market becomes more competitive for e-commerce businesses, differentiation, through personalized customer services will become even more essential for those looking to stand out. Understanding consumers’ priorities and their expectations of online shopping is a vital part of our mission to deliver what matters to retailers and consumers alike.” 

Source: UPS UK, CEP-Research