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Five ways the pandemic has changed how we shop online

Insight from The Very Group shows how consumers have ordered different items, browsed at different times and increasingly used mobile apps.

New insight from The Very Group has highlighted the way that consumers are shopping online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Group – which sells a wide range of items, including major licensed lines, via Very.co.uk and Littlewoods.com – has compiled five ways that consumers’ online shopping habits have changed, covering the initial lockdown period and the months in which measures were relaxed.

We shopped more during the hours we would normally be at work

Between March 1 and June 30 – the period which included national lockdown – we browsed more between 9am and 3pm compared to the same time last year. In contrast, we shopped less after 5pm.

We were more comfortable spending time browsing online in regular working hours during lockdown, but this habit changed as national measures eased. In both July and August 2020, our online browsing shifted back to hourly patterns comparable with those seen in 2019.

We browsed more as we headed into the weekend; less on Monday

On Mondays and Tuesdays, we typically focus on our to-do lists, including the things we need to buy online. Then, as we start to approach the weekend, we become more interested in social and entertainment activities, and spend less time internet shopping.

During lockdown – when we were largely at home and weekend socialising was off the agenda – we browsed more on Thursdays and Fridays. In fact, between April 1 and June 30, Monday became the least popular weekday to browse, Thursday became our joint favourite day for shopping online, while Friday saw the biggest growth in share of traffic compared to the same period last year. A more regular pattern of early week browsing returned in July and August 2020, as lockdown measures eased.

We used our smartphones more despite being at home

We have been ditching our laptops and tablets in favour of shopping on our smartphones for some time now. But despite many of us spending more time at home than ever before, this trend didn’t slow. 81% of orders came from mobile between April 1 and August 31, 2020 – representing an increase of 6%ppts year-on-year. This growth is entirely attributed to orders using apps.

We prioritised DIY and entertaining the kids

The things we bought shifted as we shopped more to entertain our families and improve our homes during lockdown. In contrast, sales in fashion declined, with more of us staying at home. The Very Group’s top performing categories by sales growth included gaming, vision, DIY and garden products.

Apple Airpods, Amazon Firestick and the Animal Crossing: New Horizons video game all made the top five products by sales volume between April 1 and June 30, illustrating the value we placed on entertainment. Since then, home and electrical continue to be the dominant categories, albeit sub-sections of fashion are proving resilient, including sports and childrenswear.

We wanted items straight to our door, not via click and collect

With more and more of us staying at home during the pandemic, click-and-collect became less popular. Between April 1 and June 30, click-and-collect made up 20% of The Very Group’s orders, while home deliveries made up 80%. During the same period last year, the proportion was 33% click-and-collect and 67% home delivery.

The share of click and collect orders began to increase again in July at 27%, but it was still some way off its 2019 performance (40%). Then in August the gap narrowed, with click-and-collect making up 24% of orders in 2020 compared with 31% in 2019.

“More of us than ever turned to online during lockdown and have remained online as restrictions continue to shift,” said Henry Birch, ceo at The Very Group. “The easing of lockdown caused many of these trends to normalise in July and August. However, with COVID-19 cases now increasing in the UK, and the recent introduction of ‘the rule of six’ and local restrictions across the country, the winter months could bring further disruption to daily life.

“This would mean more changes to the way we shop online, but whether we see a full return to lockdown shopping trends will depend on the measures implemented in future. There are a lot of unknowns.”

Henry continued: “While some things have returned to normal, with children back in school, the situation is likely to remain changeable. Home and electrical are likely to remain strong categories over the coming weeks, and we envisage a longer-term recovery in fashion. Lockdown has made many of us take on healthier new habits, so we expect sportswear to be particularly strong.

“Next stop, Black Friday. Last year was our biggest Black Friday ever, and our promotion lasted three weeks, rather than being limited to the day itself. With the recent growth in online shopping, it could be just as big again with electrical likely to be the standout category.”

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