56% of Brits plan to buy their Christmas presents online, Salesforce reports

To explore the current attitudes and habits of consumers in the UK — and their use of technology as part of the shopping process — Salesforce has released its third annual Connected Shoppers Report”.

PART ONE – Shopping trends point to multi-channel shopping behaviour

The shoppers’ path to purchase is becoming increasingly complex. New technologies have led to an era of heightened shopper expectations, where retailers are struggling to meet shopper desires for a seamless and smart retail experience.

Shoppers say so long to the linear path to purchase

British retailers may be facing increasingly knowledgeable, discerning customers. The shopper’s path to making a purchase is no longer as simple as walking into a store, browsing inventory, and buying a product. Most of today’s shoppers are doing their homework, over a range of channels, well ahead of time, making them more knowledgeable and empowered than ever before. In fact:

  • 77% of UK shoppers research products prior to purchasing from a retailer in-store, and 84% research products prior to purchasing online
  • Nearly three-fifths (59%) of UK shoppers like to shop in-store to touch and feel the merchandise. Millennials are the least likely to cite this reason (41% vs. 61% of Gen X and 70% of baby boomers)
  • 53% of Brits cite being able to have the product immediately as a reason they like to shop in-store

Retailers trying, but failing to meet shopper expectations 

As shoppers flock to a wide range of channels, retailers may be struggling to keep up. However, the good news is that shoppers seem to be feeling the effects of their efforts.

  • 83% of UK shoppers felt that retailers are changing how they do business to keep up with current shopping habits/preferences
  • Over half (53%) of UK shoppers like retailers offering recommendations based on their purchasing history
  • 45% would be willing to share data regarding their preferences in order to receive faster service in-store. This figure is much higher for millennials, with six in ten (60%) being willing to share data, while less than a third of baby boomers (32%) would be willing to do so

However, these efforts clearly aren’t enough.

  • About three-fifths of shoppers (61%) agree that retail experiences are disconnected from channel to channel
  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) agree that retailers don’t truly know who they are.
  • Less than half of shoppers (47%) believe store associates do not have the tools needed to deliver an excellent customer experience.
  • Half of British shoppers (50%) claimed that they typically know more about a product than the store associate
  • Over a third of UK shoppers (35%) took this a step further by adding that they thought robots could replace human store associates

The next generation seeks a smarter retail experience

  • 19% of Brits would use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to search merchandise in a physical store or online catalogue using an image
  • Millennial shoppers are more than twice as likely as baby boomer shoppers to find AI technology appealing (29% vs. 12%)
  • 16% of shoppers would find mobile wallets appealing, with this rising to 26% among millennials
  • 20% of millennials would welcome drones delivering their shopping, compared to only 6% of the baby boomer generation

PART TWO – Regional shopping habits across UK

In the first part of this report, UK consumers, across all generations seem to value in-store experiences like touching the merchandise and making immediate purchases. To better understand the role of online in the shopping mix for British consumers Salesforce conducted further research into how behaviours differ across regions in the UK.

It’s the experience that matters – even at Christmas 

With the experience paramount, UK shoppers appreciate the online experience when physical locations are crowded or sold out of items. This is never truer than at Christmas, when the push and shove of crowds keep consumers at home, instead opting to scroll from the comfort of their sofas. For instance, more than half of UK adults would always avoid shopping in-store on Black Friday (57%), Christmas/ Boxing Day (59%) and New Year’s Day (56%).

Around Great Britain there are some regions that are even more likely to avoid the shops:

  • More than half of Londoners would always avoid shopping in-store on Black Friday (59%), Christmas/ Boxing Day (54%) and New Year’s Day (52%)
  • In Wales, this avoidance level is slightly higher for Black Friday (60%) and Christmas/Boxing Day (64%)

It’s not just on these sale days that consumers turn to the convenience of online for their Christmas shopping. This year, nearly 3 out of 5 Brits (56%) plan to do at least half of their holiday shopping online. Regionally it is interesting to note that:

  • 12% of consumers in the Northwest, Southwest and Scotland play to buy 100% of their Christmas shopping online, while the Northeast plans to only by 2% online
  • 10% of UK consumers in the Northeast and London do not plan to do any Christmas shopping online this year, which is higher in comparison to other regions (Northwest 5% and Southeast 6%)

UK’s love affair with Amazon

Looking more closely into how consumers shop online, it becomes clear that Amazon could be the most popular retail e-commerce channel. Over nine in 10 (91%) of UK adults use or have used Amazon to buy items. Interestingly:

  • Over half (56%) of UK consumers used Amazon because of product affordability
  • 70% of online Amazon consumers plan to buy the same amount or more gifts during the Christmas period


Looking at the regions:

  • East of England, South East and Wales shoppers are the biggest regional users (93%) of Amazon
  • 78% of Scottish shoppers plan to use Amazon for Christmas gift shopping, compared to 66% of consumers in the South East
  • Only 48% of North East shoppers used Amazon for affordability compared to 59% of users from both the West Midlands and London respectively

Holiday shopping is becoming more condensed

It is vital that retailers understand when UK shoppers are planning to purchase Christmas gifts so that promotions, gift suggestions and other marketing materials can be targeted at the optimum time. It appears that in the UK, the holiday shopping period is very condensed. Most consumers do not start looking until the month before Christmas.

  • This year, 15% of UK shoppers plan to do most of their shopping before 1st November. In particular, those in the East of England and West Midlands are most likely to buy their Christmas presents before November (18%)
  • Shoppers in the South East are most likely to leave Christmas shopping until the last minute, as over a third (39%) plan to buy presents in the first two weeks of December
  • Over one third (35%) of GB shoppers plan to do most of their Christmas shopping within the first two weeks of December

Regionally speaking:

  • South East shoppers represent the highest region (39%) to conduct Christmas shopping during the first fortnight in December
  • West Midlands shoppers are the lowest region (25%) to buy their festive gifts between the period of 1st – 15th December
  • East Midlands are the highest region planning to buy gifts on Black Friday at 6%