Lockdowns changed consumer buying behavior: New research.

The series of national lockdowns has resulted in significant changes to the way Britons consume goods, including what they buy, the channels they buy through and how they pay, according to new research.

Barclaycard Payments partnered with Futurist Tom Cheesewright to reveal the biggest shifts in consumer behavior and what this means for the future of British retail.

It said that since the start of the pandemic, 9% of consumers have used ‘come to me’ retail, where a concierge-style service delivers clothing to customers’ homes and waits while they try it on, so that they can immediately return any items they don’t want.

The convenience of the service is proving popular, with 94% of customers planning to use it again. Of particular interest to fashion retailers, 34% of shoppers said they would be more inclined to buy from a brand offering ‘come to me’ retail as an option, while 38% said they’d prefer this service to receiving deliveries and returning unwanted items by mail. 

“While this method might not be scalable for brands dealing with higher volumes, it’s a great example of how smart businesses are looking for ways to provide smoother and more seamless shopping experiences”, the report says.


With the closure of non-essential shops for extended periods, consumers have been receiving an average of two extra deliveries per month since March 2020 (seven parcels now vs five before March 2020). This equates to over 86 packages in total over the course of a year. This growth in deliveries is here to stay, with over half of people expecting to receive either the same amount (47%) or more (10%) in the future.
And 30% of consumers say they have used Click and Collect more often since the start of the pandemic. Shoppers now use the service three times a month compared to twice a month in 2019. Almost all (90%) of those who have been using the service more often since the start of the pandemic will keep this up once all restrictions have been lifted.

Despite many fashion names saying they’ve seen lower returns, the opposite is true, says Barclaycard. In the last 12 months, 51% of Britons have returned items they’ve bought online, compared to 47% in the same period in 2019 and 46% in 2016. Some 12% of Britons report returning more because they’re unable to try items on in-store and 9% have used home deliveries as a try-on service, ordering multiple sizes and colours in the absence of a shop changing room. 


Lockdowns have changed the way goods are bought and how they’re paid for, with mobile payments growing substantially in the past year. Barclays consumer debit data reveals that Apple Pay grew rapidly in 2020 compared to 2019, in particular in Leisure & Entertainment, where online debit transactions increased by 70%. With ‘digital wallets’ and mobile payment services soaring, physical wallets are becoming less popular. Some 30% of consumers and 55% of 25-34 year-olds say they now regularly leave their wallet or purse behind because all they need is their mobile phone.

Some 71% now think more carefully about how they spend their money and 92% of those who do, plan to continue being more mindful of their spending habits even after lockdown lifts. With more time available to scour the internet at home for the perfect gift, 50% of Britons also say they have put more thought into what they’ve bought for others, with 83% of those confident this behaviour will continue.

The additional time has also meant people are doing more research to ensure the products they buy are made ethically (46%), with 88% planning to continue this shift in behaviour after lockdown ends. 

“Retailers can take advantage of this by highlighting their ‘mindful’ credentials; nudging more consumers to make a purchase”, the report suggests.
Encouragingly, research with retailers shows that small- and medium-sized businesses are responding to this new landscape, with 29% planning to invest in new equipment and technology in 2021, and 13% viewing technology as “the top opportunity for growth over the next year”. 

Cheesewright said: “Echoes of this pandemic will be heard long after lockdown is lifted through a sustained shift in our buying behaviours. Changes we expected to happen over a decade have been condensed into a year, leading us to ask: what’s next?
“The trend towards online and concierge services look set to continue, with shoppers seeking ever greater convenience and clawing back time to spend elsewhere. Retailers that can strip friction from their sales process while making us feel special will continue to succeed”.

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