Cautious Brits On Lockdown Are Not Shifting Spend Entirely Online

It would be easy to assume that as Boris told Brits to stay at home -- unless they are shopping for food and medicine or exercising -- the whole of the country would already have been conducting their lives online.

As one of the many who has been hoping to rediscover online grocery shopping, but finding it all but impossible to find a delivery slot, I had just imagined that everything had switched to ordering online. 

However, as ever with seemingly obvious deductions, we have to challenge our thinking if it appears a little too easy. The latest figures from eMarketer make for very interesting reading. They asked consumers whether they are shopping any more or less online for some key items. The results are surprising -- and, it has to be added, cover a period before Boris put Britain on lockdown.

For anyone battling to book a delivery slot online with a supermarket, it will come as a great surprise that roughly four in five people are shopping for online groceries as they were before the COVID-19 outbreak. Nearly 8% have stopped or decreased buying groceries online, leaving 14% shopping for food more frequently online. This is the one sector I would have imagine would see the graph shooting up through the roof, rather than showing a modest gain of new customers compared to lost customers.

However, the data underscores that people generally want to buy food there and then, rather than wait for an elusive slot to become available in a couple of weeks. It also shows that people may not trust the supermarket to have their favourite food available when that elusive day arrives in the future so they would rather take their chances right here and now and fight it out with other shoppers for dried pasta and a toilet roll.

The other really interesting one here was takeaway food. It's another sector where you would imagine people are flooding local restaurants to have dinner delivered. As it turns out, though, nearly one in five of us have reduced or stopped ordering meal deliveries online. That compares to just under 7% who are ordering more meals. Again, what the data is telling us is that people are more likely to curtail their Deliveroo habit than increase it. Arguably, this is because of concerns over income as well as the risk of strangers bringing lunch or dinner to your door. 

With other categories, around the same proportion are not buying any more electronics online as those who are buying more, and clothing is pretty evenly balanced too. 

So, for anyone wondering what the impact of COVID-19 will be, the temptation to just assume purchasing will automatically move online must be resisted. It's too easy. It forgets that people are scared about their future income prospects as well as receiving a cooked dinner from a guy on a motorbike. They're also finding it impossible to book supermarket deliveries, so they're dutifully turning up to stores instead.

We have to remember consumers are humans who don't just do the next most logical thing, they act on instinct and emotions. Right now, that is steering them to get their own food as soon as possible and to protect their income by resisting the temptation to order dinner online more often and instead consider making more meals at home. 

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