Online shopping surge to continue as buying patterns change – Research

Online shopping habits for Irish consumers have changed dramatically since COVID-19 and this will continue, according to research carried out by Virgin Media, with half of all respondents saying they now shop more online now than they ever did previously, since the COVID-19 crisis started. This will likely take a further leap forward as the Level 5 restrictions take effect.

Consumers have shown a rapidly increasing preference to shop from home using digital channels with 90% saying they spent money online over the past month.

4 in 10 people (37%) said they began shopping online for the first time - at the start of the pandemic.

The findings come from research commissioned by Virgin Media Ireland and conducted independently by Amárach Research, surveying over 1,000 people aged 18 and upwards across all regions of the country.

·         Half (47%) of respondents said they’re shopping more online than before due to the pandemic.

·         According to Virgin Media’s research, Ireland’s Top Five most popular online purchases on a usual basis are (1) Clothing 81%, (2) Food Takeout and Delivery 62%, (3) Footwear 60%, (4) Consumer Electronics 59% and (5) Entertainment at Home, 57%.

·         New buying patterns have also emerged since the pandemic started with many people now buying a range of specific goods and services online for the first time.  The Top Five most popular new online purchases among these consumers include (1) Groceries, 44% of online grocery shoppers began purchasing their groceries online since the start of the pandemic; (2) Healthcare, Fitness and Wellness Products 37%; (3) Snacks 36%; (4) Household Supplies 35%, (5) Vitamins / Supplements 35%.

·         Among grocery shoppers, 24% of people said that once the pandemic is over, they’d like to do less in store shopping and continue shopping online for groceries into the future.

·         One in four people surveyed who have used a ‘click and collect’ service did so for the first time ever in recent months, and 7 in 10 respondents said they have used restaurant kerbside pickup services for the first time since lockdown started.

·         Over half (54%) of shoppers said they know exactly what they want to buy before they go online to buy it and 7 in 10 people also plan to treat themselves once life is ‘back to normal’.

·         The average online spend by people surveyed was €245 in the past month.

4 in 10 people said they had spent amounts of up to €100 online in the past month, with a further grouping (40%) saying they spent between €100 and €500 and roughly 10% spending between €500 and €1,000, or more.  One in 10 people said they didn’t shop online in the past month.

Taking the above into account, the research estimates current average monthly online spending by consumers at €775m per month or an annualised figure of €9.3bn. This is a conservative estimate given that a significant online Christmas rush can reasonably be expected by year-end. Central Bank data recorded online spending of €15.9bn for the first three quarters of 2019.

·         With new forms of e-commerce being delivered via virtual reality and augmented reality platforms, half of the individuals surveyed say they would be interested in using their laptop or smartphone to navigate a ‘virtual supermarket’ for online shopping.

4 in 10 respondents went a step further and said they’d be interested in wearing a VR headset at home to allow them ‘walk around’ these virtual stores to select and buy products they would like delivered to their home.

The research highlights a major increase in broadband usage to avail of online ecommerce services and this is correlates directly to Virgin Media’s own metrics which show a 40% increase in data usage across its high speed residential broadband network during the period from March to June inclusive (2020). Virgin Media Ireland also recently launched 1 Gigabit broadband services for 1m premises across its network.

Paul Higgins, Vice-President, Virgin Media Ireland said, “The research shows there is a constant ramping up of activity online and we see this reflected in a 40% increase in data usage across our network since March. The findings also demonstrate the need for reliable, fast and secure broadband to meet constantly growing connectivity needs.

“We are seeing a dramatic shift in Irish consumers’ shopping habits with 90% of people now regularly buying goods and services online and 47% doing this more than they ever did before.  This highlights how important an online capability is for Irish businesses including retailers and SMEs. Serving customers and consumers requires an omnichannel approach with a major emphasis on digital service delivery and this will continue to be the case in the run-up to Christmas, into the new year and onwards.

“The current situation is driving significant change in how people live their lives. Our increased data usage underlines the fact that broadband is playing a central role underpinning the continuity of daily life and business activity to the best possible effect. With our recent 1Gb broadband boost, we’re ensuring that people and businesses will be able to participate fully in every aspect of digital life as we continue to support the economy through the essential connectivity we’re providing.”