British shoppers becoming increasingly ethically driven when buying, McCann research reveals


British shoppers are buying in a far more ethical way than 10 years ago with more than two thirds (66%) of Brits considering the ethics of a product before they purchase, according to a new study by McCann.

Comparatively, only 40% of French shoppers and 50% of Americans do the same. The global average was just over half, pitting the UK as the most ethically minded of the 11 countries profiled in McCann Worldgroup’s The Truth About Shopping research.

The British shopper isn’t totally virtuous however, as the study reveals that despite Britain pioneering modern manners and etiquette, it doesn’t apply when it comes to the shopping environment. More than one in five Brits believe it is acceptable behaviour to buy an item of clothing online, wear it once, and then return it. Similarly, the same amount of people would excuse themselves from a business meeting with their boss to partake in an online sale to ensure they secure a coveted item of clothing. More surprisingly, over a third of British shoppers would be willing to enter into a competitive encounter with their fellow shoppers whilst in-store to ensure they secure a bargain and buy the last sale item.

The study shows how British shoppers are getting increasingly tech-savvy when it comes to using of technology to shop and are open to clever use of their data. Privacy is still a key issue, with trust still a major barrier – in 2011, 77% of those profiled were happy for shopping behaviour data to be used by retailers, in 2014, it drops to 63%.  However, two thirds of the UK said they would be willing to share personal information if there was some tangible benefit to their overall shopping experience. A further 42% of those profiled felt that they risked missing out on discovery if their data and online behaviour wasn’t used to target them with smarter shopping information about flash-sales, new product and offers.

The research reveals how Britain is becoming more open to a futuristic shopping experience, with 38% of UK shoppers saying they would be willing to engage with retina recognition when they walk into a shop that can tailor their shopping options. Ten per cent say they would be open to consider embedding payment technology on their person. It seems that using personal data isn’t as contentious as it first appears; the main issue is that it isn’t used in a smart or bespoke way, said researchers. More than 37% of respondents say that as long retailers do it in a relevant and clever way they would be happy to be monitored by technology that recognises their data when they walk into a shop and could target their shopping experience.

It appears that the increasing reach of brands on social media has captured the shopping public’s imagination, and over a third of Brits say they would accept a friend request on Facebook from their favourite shops – allowing them to see their personal data held on social media.

As much as Brits are willing to embrace technology, they still desire a physical experience to unleash the emotional side of shopping. In particular, when it comes to mobile purchases, a resounding 67% prefer to browse on mobile than to buy. Over half of British shoppers believe that mobile buying actually takes the fun out of the overall shopping experience. There is, however, an increasing desire for impulse purchases, with nearly two thirds of Brits saying that if mobile shopping became a quicker experience (ideally under three minutes to complete a purchase) they would buy more. These increases in quicker methods to purchase could prove to be a double edged sword for consumers as 40% of those surveyed in the UK admitted to regretting mobile-made purchases that were done on impulse.

Rodney Collins, McCann’s in-house-anthropologist and Truth Central regional director, who leads The Truth about Shopping research in Europe, said: “Shopping is at the very heart of our everyday lives, fulfilling fundamental human needs of connecting, giving, and discovering. Most of us like if not love it, and in some cases, we live to shop.

“Even as technological innovations enable consumers to integrate the multi-fold practice of shopping deeper into their lives, the global financial downtown continues to impact shoppers the world over (whether in fact or in perception) while deeper values aligned with sustainability and social good are increasingly shaping purchase decisions.

“Pioneering brands and companies that both take notice of these truths and then lead the way toward transfigurative outcomes may very well relieve consumers of the challenges they associate with the changing structure of shopping and the shop as we know it.”