The UK's online purchasing habits

Shopping cart full of icons representing the UK’s online shopping habits

A look into the UK’s online shopping habits

With technology now making it easier than ever to shop on-the-go, it’s estimated that by 2021, 93% of the UK’s internet users are expected to shop online [1].  With that in mind, we wanted to find out the weird and wonderful locations people do their online shopping – whether it's in the car, in bed or even on the toilet, and if lockdown has changed anything.

We carried out a study of UK adults before [2] and during [3] lockdown to find out their online shopping habits and how social distancing may have impacted this. Our analysis dives into the strangest places people buy online, the most unusual products they’ve bought and even the items they’re unlikely to purchase online.

Unusual places people do their online shopping

The unusual places people do their online shopping

It comes as no surprise to see that Brits enjoy shopping from the comfort of their sofa (73%), tucked up in bed (53%) and even sneakily at work (28%). But, what we didn't expect to see was that the bathroom is also a firm favourite, with 19% of shoppers admitting to making purchases while sitting on the toilet and more than one in 10 (11%) doing so while having a soak in the bath.

At the extreme end of the spectrum, our study reveals some very unusual online shopping hotspots including checking out during a wedding (hopefully not the bride and groom’s own), at 30,000ft high on an aeroplane, during a sightseeing tour and most shockingly at funerals.

Chart showing where people are purchasing online during lockdown

The new normal - where people are purchasing online during lockdown

While restrictions on where we can visit are starting to lift, people are worried about shopping on the high street and with many still spending a lot more time at home, online shopping is certainly booming. We wanted to take a look at where people have been purchasing online during lockdown. 

What’s surprising is that 11% admit to sitting in their car to do their online shopping to get away from their partner, kids or family. Amusingly, 6% also shop online while doing a workout, and 5% even admit to doing so while they’re in the shower. We really hope they’ve got insurance on those phones! 

We weren’t surprised to see that 13% have been using long waits in supermarket queues to shop online - it’s certainly a good use of otherwise wasted time.

The weird and wonderful items people have purchased online

Although there were far too many to mention, we saw everything from a flight ticket for a dog to a jelly mould of the Queen’s face and even a set of teeth grills.

However, our favourites include one singular sheep, Donald Trump toilet paper and an autograph from Wolf from the 90’s TV show Gladiators - perhaps the most unusual being the surplus bulbs from Cleethorpes town council’s Christmas decorations!

Icons listing items people are reluctant to buy online

People are happier than ever to buy online

Before lockdown, nearly half (45%) of those surveyed said they would never buy a wedding dress online, however, this dropped to just 37% after social distancing measures came into play. People are more likely to buy a wedding dress (63%), medicine (74%) and even a house (68%) online now versus before social distancing was introduced.

Over half of Brits (54%) feel confident shopping online, surprisingly this rises to 61% in the 45-54 age group in comparison to 18-24 year olds where this drops to only 46%. More than two in five (41%) respondents say they love buying online, with half stating this is due to the ease and simplicity that online shopping offers.

Chart highlighting change in attitude to buying cars online

How car buying attitudes changed during lockdown

Prior to lockdown, 42% of Brits said they would not be happy to buy a car online, with Gen Z (aged 18-24) being the most likely demographic (27%), compared to 57% of baby boomers (aged 55+), who are least likely to purchase a car online.

However, lockdown may have changed perceptions with just 27% now saying they wouldn’t feel comfortable buying their car online, which is a difference of 15%.

[1] https://www.statista.com/topics/2333/e-commerce-in-the-united-kingdom/

[2] Market research was conducted by Research Without Barriers between 28th February and the 2nd March 2020 asking 2,023 UK adults who made purchases online.

[3] Market research was conducted by Research Without Barriers between 22nd and 28th May 2020 asking 2,008 UK adults about their lockdown shopping habits.