Pandemic increases consumer focus on ethics and independent retail, survey finds

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Cashflows, the platform that makes it easy for merchants to accept payments, today publishes new research revealing the impact of the pandemic on UK consumer shopping habits. The research shows a marked increase in those who say they feel motivated to buy based on ethics, however cost, quality and convenience remain the primary concerns.

More than nine in ten (91%) UK consumers say they actively seek out products with ethical affiliations and 35% are more motivated to do so now than they were before the pandemic. This rises to 45% for the key retail demographic of 18-35 year olds, and 47% for consumers within Greater London. Respondents over 56 are most likely to opt for local produce (43%) and British manufactured products (42%), whereas 18-35 year olds seek cruelty-free products (32%) and products with recycled packaging / that do not use plastic (30%). 

The research does, however, reveal a disconnect between intention and action. 39% of respondents now buy more from chains or large corporates like Amazon than they did before the pandemic, and only 11% have reduced these purchases. Independent retailers have experienced a more mixed picture – 24% of respondents say they have shopped more at independent stores whereas 23% have done so less since the pandemic began. 

Nevertheless, 62% of Brits say they enjoy buying from local providers, such as farm shops and independent retailers, compared to just 28% that enjoy buying from large corporate enterprises. This translates to spending power, as nearly three in four consumers (70%) are willing to spend up to 10% more on an item from an independent/local provider versus the same item from a chain.  

Four times as many British consumers feel guilty about purchases made via Amazon (12%) than they do about buying local (3%). 27% of respondents are proud to buy locally, compared to just 8% that associate pride with Amazon purchases. 

Interestingly, much of the joy of purchase was attributed to the act of buying the item itself, rather than receiving or using it. This is most true of younger generations, with 27% of 18-35s experiencing more joy when paying for an item than when opening it, using the item for the first time or sharing it with others. When questioned, more than a fifth of consumers (22%) also admitted that over the last year, they had forgotten that they had made a purchase, and were surprised when the item was delivered.

Amanda Mesler, CEO, Cashflows, comments: “Shopping has helped create joy for many Brits in the face of the boredom, frustration and sadness of the past year. While lockdown has been a cue for many to buy local and more strongly consider ethical factors, creating huge opportunity for independent retailers, the fact remains that cost, convenience and quality still reign supreme. It is therefore essential that retailers of all sizes are equipped to manage transactions across any platform or channel. The online payment process is a significant factor in this, particularly for a key target demographic of consumer retailers – 18-35 year olds. To be successful and ensure high conversion rates, merchants must provide a smooth and seamless payment experience, which adds to the joy of purchase rather than extracting from it.”