Almost half of UK consumers plan to use more online services post-pandemic, ForgeRock survey reveals

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The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a deep, widespread and likely permanent shift to buying goods and services online rather than in-person across a wide range of sectors and age groups, a new survey of British consumers has found. 

The research, commissioned by the leading provider in digital identity ForgeRock, found that across multiple sectors including shopping, healthcare, and entertainment, there has been a double digit increase in the percentage of people preferring to buy products and services online rather than in-person. Crucially, the research suggests that behaviour changes triggered by the pandemic are likely to be permanent, with almost half (49%) of Brits stating that they will continue to use more online services even after restrictions are lifted. 

All sectors will continue to be affected by this change even after the pandemic, but some will see especially significant consumer shifts: majorities said they plan to consume entertainment (59%), shop (63%), access government services (68%), and conduct their personal banking (66%) mostly or only online, even after restrictions are lifted. 

Nick Caley, vice president, United Kingdom and Ireland for ForgeRock, commented: “Consumers have been gradually moving away from physical interactions and towards digital and online services for a number of years, but this trend has been turbocharged by Covid-19. The pandemic was the trigger for millions of people to try online grocery shopping, mobile banking and content streaming for the first time and this research suggests that these behaviour changes are not temporary. Having made the switch, many consumers have found that they actually prefer doing things online.

“For businesses, this means there will be no return to ‘business as usual’ after the pandemic. They need to think of this shift to digital as a fundamental, permanent change that requires a strategic and co-ordinated response, not as a temporary disruption that can be weathered. 

“Brands that can deliver smooth and seamless online services will find that the new customers gained during this period are likely to keep coming back. Those that don’t will quickly find that poor digital experiences – for example, overcomplicated log-in or checkout processes – will hit their bottom lines as customers abandon their online shopping carts and take their business elsewhere.”

The survey polled 1,000 British consumers between the 3rd and 9th of September 2020 to understand how behaviours and preferences have evolved since the start of Covid-19 restrictions. The fieldwork was conducted by Vitreous

Key findings include:

Overall:

  • 49% of Britons say that they will continue to use more online services, even after the pandemic, than they did before. 
  • This intention is apparent across all age groups, although the behaviour shift seems strongest among 35-44 year olds (58%) and 23-34 year olds (56%).

In retail:

  • Four in 10 Britons (41%) now prefer to shop for groceries or household goods online, compared to just 28% before the pandemic – an increase of 13%.
  • More than half (52%) now prefer to shop for clothes online, compared to just 39% before the pandemic – also an increase of 13%.
  • 63% plan to visit retailers mainly or mostly online even after restrictions are lifted. Only 10% of people plan to shop only or mostly in-person.

In entertainment:

  • The number of people preferring to watch live sports or musical performances online has rocketed. More than half of those surveyed, 55%, now prefer to watch live sports online (a 27% increase), while 46% prefer to watch a musical performance online (a 29% increase). 
  • Nearly two thirds (60%) now prefer to watch movies online, compared to just 36% that would prefer to watch in-person – a 14% increase since the pandemic began. 
  • In fact, 59% of people now plan to attend movies, sports or music events mostly or only online even after restrictions are lifted, including 30% who will only do so online. Only 13% will do so mostly or only in-person.

In banking:

  • 66% of people plan to use banking services mostly or only online after the pandemic, with just 1 in 10 (11%) saying they will use them mostly or only in-person.
  • 41% of respondents have signed up for one or more new banking or financial services apps during the pandemic, with 23% saying they now use banking and financial services apps more frequently than before. 

In healthcare and public services:

  • One third (34%) of people now prefer getting medical advice online, compared to just 14%  before the pandemic.
  • 24% plan to use healthcare services only or mostly online, compared to 40% planning to use them mostly or only in person. An additional 32% plan to use a mix of online and in person.
  • 68% of people plan to use government services mostly or only online, compared with 9% planning to use them in-person.

Caley added: “The switch to online activity has taken place across sectors, but it’s particularly pronounced in entertainment, retail and healthcare. Leaders in these industries must now plan for a future where most customers want to interact with them online first with in-person a distant second.”

The UK findings are similarly reflected by consumers polled in the US, Germany, Australia, and Singapore. Nearly half (45%) of all respondents globally said that they will use more online services post-pandemic than they did before. The US and Singapore led in registering for new apps and online services, while Brits and Australians (40%) were the most likely to continue using their new apps and online services after the pandemic.