Online shopping stopped Covid from stealing Christmas

Last year, online sales in the UK accounted for 46 per cent of all retail sales, according to ONS figures – the highest annual growth reported since 2008. In addition, 61 per cent of consumers said their Christmas celebrations would have been impossible without internet shopping as over two-thirds (68 per cent) of consumers’ Christmas spend was online in 2020.

This is according to Wunderman Thompson Commerce’s Peak Selling and The Pandemic report, which surveyed over 6,000 online consumers in the UK, USA and China.

Last year people encountered strict, last-minute COVID-19 restrictions and high-street closures across Britain led to one of the most disruptive retail periods. Families were forced to cancel big gatherings altogether, with over half of consumers claiming that this ruined their festive period.

As the UK economy recovers from Covid, retailers that rely on the Q4 peak (Black Friday and Christmas) for survival should already be planning for a successful 2021, said Wunderman Thompson. The expectation from over half (53 per cent) of shoppers is that retailers should be better prepared for these periods.

Hugh Fletcher, Global Head of Consultancy and Innovation at Wunderman Thompson Commerce, said: “Whether retailers liked it or not, they had to pivot peak plans in 2020. And when it came to Black Friday and Christmas, most were forced to adopt a digital-only mindset. For some, this was an easy change as they had been reaping the benefits of online for years. For others, COVID-19 was a shock to the system that caused a complete overhaul of strategy.

“What’s clear is 2020 changed peak retail forever and perhaps retail generally – consumer behaviour shifted more than retailers could have anticipated and the expectation for an unbeatable, affordable service is even higher now.

“Companies like Amazon have been mastering peak periods well before the pandemic stole the headlines, so it’s vital other retailers aren’t left behind by continuing to innovate, investing in the back-end and listening to what customers need.”