This might come as a surprise to you, but many consumers were once reluctant to buy online. Security fears and the thought of entering credit card details on a payment page scared many. However, online buying has surged over the last decade even more so amid the coronavirus pandemic and it’s driven by several factors.

Improvements in online security have increased consumer confidence in internet buying, paving the way for a shopping boom the likes of which have never been seen before. According to a study by Barclays, online spending in November 2020 alone grew by 23.0%, rising from 10.5% in October.

Meanwhile, across the year, online grocery shopping saw a whopping 94.7% increase, driven by the fact that many consumers were forced to shop online during Britain’s first lockdown. While the coronavirus has undoubtedly sparked a surge in online buying, the upward trend started long before we were all beset by the virus, and it’s not just the big stores taking advantage of it.

You probably use take-away services now using an app without even thinking about it. There was a time when you had to walk to your local chippy to place an order, but many now allow you to order online and pick up when it’s ready.

Services have grown around this burgeoning business to make it easy for these sorts of outlets to get online (did somebody say Just Eat?), but others, such as butchers, delicatessens and other artisan stores are also taking the leap by themselves.

Some are investing in websites which enable their customers to order online then pick up, while others, maybe dipping their toes in the digital river, are instead asking people to contact them via social media.

Social media is particularly attractive to even smaller businesses because it’s free and everywhere. It opens communication between the store owner and customer, but that can also be its downfall.

Managing stock and taking orders can be challenging, and after a full day at work do you really want to be dealing with customers while you’re trying to relax watching Bake Off?

Whichever way they choose to take orders and communicate updates, this is a very different world to just a few years ago.

While take-up has been slow for a few years, the Covid-19 pandemic and people’s fear of being in crowded shops has made it less of a “nice to have” service available to a few customers and more a “must-have” to keep trading.

What’s driving consumers to buy online?

A 40-page report published by Anglo-Dutch multinational professional services network, KPMG, identified 12 factors that have helped to drive online shopping. KPMG’s report focuses on several countries and covers a range of different generational groups from Baby Boomers to Gen X and Millennials.

According to the report, the 12 top reasons consumers gave for buying online, include:

#1 – 24-hour access

The #1 reason why more people buy online is that it gives them the ability to shop 24/7. More than half (58%) of consumers said that all hours access made shopping far more convenient.

#2 – Ability to compare prices

Gone are the days when consumers would have to go trawling around stores comparing prices for one or two items before ending up back at the first shop they went to because they had the items at the lowest price… we’ve all been there.

The internet enables shoppers to have multiple tabs open for several stores so that they can compare prices and get the best deal. Alternatively, many shoppers will use price comparison websites for pretty much anything, to find the lowest prices.

According to the KPMG report, 54% of consumers shop online because of the ability to compare prices.

#3 – Online sales and better prices

46% of shoppers in the KPMG report said they buy online because they’re convinced they will get items for better prices or a great deal from a sale – they might be on to something too! According to The Online Shopping Expert, websites tend to offer more exclusive sales and discounts than brick-and-mortar stores.

It’s often the case that online shoppers can find discounts on items that were not discounted in store, adding an extra incentive to buy online.

#4 – Save time

Modern life seems to run at a 100 miles an hour and for many shoppers, the idea of trudging around stores is not the best use of their time. Online shopping makes purchasing items quicker and easier than ever, driven by many companies being able to offer delivery within 24 hours or less.

40% of consumers from the KPMG report said that this was their main reason for shopping online.

#5 – Convenience of not going to shops

39% of consumers from the KPMG report said that they shop online because it means they don’t have to go to the shops. A proportion of people avoiding the stores are those with physical disabilities, who said that having items delivered direct to their door helps them to avoid the hassle of going to the shops.

Who doesn’t enjoy shopping from the comfort of their own home?

#6 – Greater variety and selection

Brick and mortar stores can only stock and display so much, which limits the amount of choice available to consumers when shopping in-store. Let’s take shoe shopping in-person…

…How many times do you think a consumer has found a pair of shoes they like, in a colour they love only for the shop assistant to ‘go in the back’ and return saying ‘sorry, we don’t have that shoe in your size or that colour?’ The answer is probably a lot.

Shopping online gives consumers a whole world of choices, which is why 29% of people from KPMG’s report prefer to shop online.

#7 – Free shipping offers

Free shipping is offered by most retailers, either as standard, or if consumers spend a certain amount. Getting items delivered for free was an incentive for 29% of shoppers from the KPMG report, who said that they save on fuel or public transport travel expenses.

#8 – Convenience of everything in one place

Rather than trudging from store to store, online shopping allows consumers to access almost every store in the world at the click of a button from the comfort of their own home. 27% of consumers in KPMG’s report said that the convenience of having everything in one place makes shopping ‘less stressful.’

#9 – To locate hard to find items

If a consumer is after something specific, trying to hunt it down on a ‘shop crawl’ can be time consuming and will likely lead to disappointment. Plus, if an item is quite niche or rare, the chances of finding it in-store are slim to none.

After all, shopping in-person is geographically limited to the region in which a consumer lives, which limits the amount of stores one can visit to find the item they want.

Cue the online search engine! Consumers can simply type in a description of what they’re looking for and locate it almost instantly anywhere in the world. 20% of consumers from KPMG’s report said that this is their main motivation for buying online.

#10 – To avoid crowds

Enochlophobia is the fear of crowds and one of many social anxiety disorders, which affect 8.2 million Brits. It’s likely that many of these people avoid brick and mortar stores for this reason. However, most shoppers want to avoid crowds because of the great British tradition of queuing.

Plus, when a sale event is on – typically Black Friday – shoppers can get pretty rowdy and the whole in-person shopping experience can become a bit of a nightmare. That’s why 15% of consumers from KPMG’s report prefer to shop online.

#11 – Products not sold in city/country

There are some products that just cannot be bought by consumers in their own city or country. Going out of city or out of country to get the item they want is hardly practical and would be pretty expensive.

That’s why 15% of consumers from KPMG’s report head online to source products from other regions of the UK or another country. The internet makes it possible for consumers to order from faraway places like China, Australia, New Zealand and more, getting items delivered right to their front door.

#12 – To avoid checkout lines

Ah yes, the great British tradition of queuing, an ancient pastime that many Brits no longer share a passion for and who can blame them? What parent wants to queue while the kids are screaming or wait in line with their partner because they got the hump that you found what you were looking for and they didn’t? Not many.

Then there are those people that seem to buy half the store, or monopolise the store assistant’s time and you end up in the queue behind them… ahh.

Not a problem with online shopping, gone is the queuing system. When you click that checkout button, there’s no virtual line in your way. Click, pay and be on your way. It’s as simple as that.

In addition

Another driving factor for online shopping, not mentioned by the KPMG report, but we think plays a huge part in a decision to shop online is the ability to research. Interestingly, according to research carried out by Giraffe Insights, UK mums are highly likely to research products before committing to a purchase.

In fact, 81% of mums are said to research items on a weekly basis, according to Giraffe Insights.

2020 has forced many into online shopping

KPMG’s report is pretty comprehensive in what drives consumers to shop online, but it was published before the coronavirus struck the world. The pandemic has resulted in an online shopping boom because, with many brick and mortar stores forced to close during lockdown periods, consumers have had no choice but to shop online.

According to research by Internet Retailing, online shopping grew by a staggering 129% across the UK within one-month of the March lockdown being announced. However, with the rise in online shopping, comes greater expectations among consumers.

Butchers, grocers, florists, in fact all types of shop owner will now have to be more ready than ever with improved tactics, messaging and incentives to increase online conversion rates. Some retailers will have to work harder than others because across some sectors, there’s still a reluctance among consumers to buy online, but as we’ve seen, even the most traditional of shop will eventually succumb to it.

Amid the coronavirus, online shopping is expected to see continued growth in the months and years to come as consumers across all generations become more accustomed to the convenience of internet buying.

Expect the next series of Open All Hours to feature Granville taking orders on his iPhone 11.