GREENWICH, Conn. – XPO Logistics has released recent survey data from the United States and the United Kingdom showing consumer trends during COVID-19 through May.
Over a nine-day period in late May, the independent research firm Statista surveyed 2,000 U.S. and U.K. consumers — 1,000 in each country — to determine whether buying behaviors had changed during the pandemic. The results revealed some interesting new trends and confirmed some expected outcomes.
More than 50% of XPO’s survey respondents indicated that proper social distancing and cleaning would encourage them to shop in stores again. At the same time, a majority said they will likely continue buying a range of products online after the pandemic, including appliances and other large items.
Notably, results indicate that 55% of respondents in the U.S. and 56% in the U.K. worked on a DIY home improvement project during the pandemic. Those projects ranged from bedroom and living room improvements to kitchen and bath renovations.
“The DIY data reflects our own experience in helping large home improvement retailers maintain supply chain continuity,” Drew Wilkerson, XPO’s North American president of transportation, said in a release. “Our customers need more last-mile deliveries due to the shift toward e-commerce, as well as support with store inventories. We’re using our scale and technology to help them circumvent the logjams of the pandemic.”
Online purchasing trends
COVID-19 has only accelerated consumers’ growing use of online purchasing. According to the survey, 94% of American respondents and 70% of British respondents said they are more likely or much more likely to continue to buy the same amount of goods — or more goods — online, compared with their shopping habits before the pandemic.
In both the U.S. and the U.K., women and younger respondents said they would buy more goods online overall, but the increases were relatively small. Consumers age 55-plus were less likely to buy large appliances, furniture or exercise equipment online.
Returning to stores
The surveys also indicated that in-store shopping will return when consumers are confident that retailers have strong health and safety measures in place. For example, 56% of all U.S. consumers surveyed plan to make between 25% and 74% of their purchases in brick-and-mortar stores. Despite a growing comfort with the online world, U.S. consumers age 55-plus plan to allocate less than one-fourth of their spending to e-commerce.
In both the U.S. and the U.K. surveys, social distancing measures were noted as the most important safety step retailers can take. This was followed by strict cleaning policies and then masks. Respondents age 18 to 34 valued social distancing and mask-wearing policies less than older consumers did, but they were also less comfortable with no safety measures at all, compared with those 55-plus.
Many consumers are in the habit of shopping locally, and the survey results indicate that consumers in the habit of shopping local stores will continue to do so moving forward from the pandemic. Only 3% of U.S. respondents said they were less likely to shop at neighborhood retailers than at big-box chains without local roots. Overall, 97% of consumers in both countries said they were more likely or much more likely to buy from local businesses if they had an e-commerce presence and shopping in-store was not possible.
In general, consumers thought it was more important to frequent local retailers in 2020, a sign that the shared experiences of the pandemic have forged strong community ties. This is an opportunity for privately owned retailers to invest in omnichannel strategies that incorporate e-commerce to stay competitive.
Contactless pay (60%) took the lead in the U.K. as the transactional safety practice consumers value most, and curbside pick-up or doorstep delivery took the top spot in the U.S. (41%). Contactless delivery was ranked second-most important by both U.K. (53%) and U.S. (37%) respondents. It’s clear that consumers on both sides of the pond value social distancing to stay safe.
Statista conducted the surveys May 20-28. The results reflect responses from adults in the U.S. and the U.K., age 18 and older. A report on the data is available here.