Last week we wrote about the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic might be altering our relationship with home as homeworking becomes the new (at least temporary) norm for many of us. Then we noted that it was making some people “reflect on how I, and we, work going forward”.
Such changing behavior is of course not limited to homeworking. Some early data on how the current social distancing and isolation is changing other areas of our lives has been revealed by a UK survey with 1000 participants aged 16 to 65 conducted by Appinio*, a public opinion company based in Hamburg.
Their first survey conducted on the current restrictions in the early phase of the pandemic on 24th March has pointed to how quickly people have adapted their patterns of behavior, and in particular to use online platforms.
Their data suggests for example a willingness for people to move between brands if the desired product is no longer available in a shop. With 79% finding themselves faced with the position that a branded product they usually buy was out of stock, 1 in 3 purchased a different brand to those they normally buy in their weekly shop. Other, some 18%, turned online to seek out and purchase their preferred brand online!
One of the intriguing insights the Appinio data offers is about the shift to online shopping as a result of the pandemic. Past data has shown a trend over the last few years to a steady growth in online shopping. The Office for National Statistics indicated that in the UK in January 2020, internet sales as a proportion of total retail sales was 19.9% – a steady upward growth from less than 4% in 2006.
The new data indicates that although most people’s reactions to the pandemic lockdown has not been to undertake panic buying (25% admitted they had been buying more), there was a marked rise in online shopping as traditional forms of high street shopping were curtailed.
As the above graph indicates, 2 in 5 people responded that they were now buying more online and that of those involved in buying more two thirds were doing this online. The survey covered primarily regular household supplies and confirmed the rapid growth in produce sales for cleaning products, health care and medicines, as well as rice, pasta, tea and other food products with a long shelf life.
We will continue to monitor this pattern over the coming months, and explore how such shifts in behavior may have implications for supply chains (including the extension of more delivery options needed) and changes in demand (surely the demand for toilet paper must eventually plateau?). But the Appinio data underlines that, to date, no simple pattern is emerging about a rush to online shopping to replace in-shop activity, or that the current shifts in retail behavior represent a longer-term, more deep-seated transition to online retailing.
*Appinio offers rapid market survey analysis conducting target surveys to help inform decisions – https://www.appinio.com/en/ . Their coronavirus report for the UK is available at https://www.appinio.com/en/uk-coronavirus-report