Holiday shopping
Consumer Products

How UK parents will shop in the future

The pandemic has forever changed how we shop. Physical stores will still likely play a role, but what that looks like has yet to come into focus.
December 3, 2020

By: Maxine Fox 

While there was a shift towards online shopping happening in the UK pre-COVID, in-store shopping still remained a core component of the purchasing journey. But then the retail industry was hit hard by lockdowns and store closures.

Through our ongoing “Little Voices: Big Impact” research study, Giraffe Insight has been tracking purchasing attitudes and behaviors of British kids and their parents during the pandemic. As the UK emerges from a second lockdown, and with only three weeks to go until Christmas, we’ve been exploring recent changes in parental shopping behaviors, and what they could mean in the future.

In response to the first lockdown back in March, 83% of parents have unsurprisingly migrated to shopping online, with more than a third saying they’ve used click-and-collect services.

While shoppers returned to physical stores in the summer and early fall, confidence in the ability of brick-and-mortar retailers to deliver on holiday shopping needs began to wane ahead of the second UK lockdown in November, with over half of parents saying they planned to shop exclusively online for Christmas. Only 31% said they would wait to buy gifts in-store when restrictions lift.

While recent events have forced the online migration, convenience has emerged as a dominant driver in parental choices, with Amazon pulling ahead as a clear winner in the online shopping world. Two-thirds of UK parents said they had shopped on Amazon in the few weeks before the survey was conducted, 70% planned to shop on Prime Day in October, and 88% tracked Black Friday deals through the online retailer. The convenience of online shopping is likely to outlast the pandemic, so expect this trend to stick around.

What parents are buying for their kids has also shifted in response to lockdown measures. Parents are opting for purchases that entertain the whole family or keep kids at play for longer periods. Board games (14%), creative/craft toys (16%) and puzzles (17%) were the top purchased categories for parents in the first round of lockdowns.

And that focus seems poised to continue as we move into the winter and holiday season, with no visible signs of fatigue in toys and games purchasing on the horizon. In particular, there’s an increased demand for “slow play” toys that encourage imaginative play and extend the longevity of the activity by offering a different experience each time.

When it comes to choosing gifts, our research finds that parents are prioritizing attributes such as “holds kids’ attention” (47%), “use as a family” (39%) and “replayability” (39%) in their holiday shopping. And all of these priorities are driving the most influential factor: “value for money” (60%).

While we have seen an acceleration in online shopping amongst parent consumers in response to COVID-19, it’s evident that increased use and convenience will continue to draw more families into the behavior.

Stores are by no means obsolete, but their role within the overall consumer journey has yet to be defined in a post-pandemic world.

“Little Voices: Big Impact” surveys 550 kids ages two to 12 and their parents every other month (3,300 kids and parents annually). Maxine Fox is managing director at marketing research firm Giraffe Insights. 

Photo by Heidi Fin on Unsplash.

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