Our research conducted last month indicated that e-commerce had penetrated the post-coronavirus European market and had even made a dent in southern European countries where uptake of such services is traditionally low. Redfield & Wilton’s Strategies’ findings were confirmed in our July poll where a large majority of respondents in France (56%), Italy (67%) and Spain (63%) answered that they have shopped online for items they normally buy in person since the pandemic began. In contrast, only 44% of Germans respondents had done so.
The period between our polls in June and July saw the uptake of online shopping increase in France and Italy while remaining unchanged in Germany and Spain.
Across all four countries, two major demographic trends can be observed:
Firstly, younger generations were more likely to have shopped online since the start of the crisis than older generations. In Germany and France, 60% and 65% of respondents between the ages of 25 and 34 shopped online, making them the most likely age group. 62% of Spaniards and 75% of Italians between the ages of 18 to 24 answered that they have shopped online since the start of the pandemic.
Secondly, female respondents were somewhat more likely to have shopped online since the start of the pandemic than male respondents. Italian women were the most likely across all four countries to online shop (73%) compared to 60% of Italian men. In France, a gap of almost 10-points separates female (61%) from male (52%) consumers. Perhaps, a lack of childcare availability might account for this disparity. It may also be that female respondents were more likely to shop online even before the pandemic.
It is likely that the increase in online shopping is a direct result of fear surrounding entering stores in person, however, this differs between retail sectors. We found that a majority (53%) of Spanish and French (51%) respondents did not feel safe shopping for clothes compared to roughly a third of Italian (37%) and German (30%) respondents who did not feel safe.
By comparison, a significant majority of respondents across all four countries feel safe going shopping for groceries. German consumers (81%) continue to feel the safest going shopping for groceries against 57% of French, 66% of Spaniards and 79% of Italians.
It should be noted, however, that the proportion of respondents who feel safe shopping for groceries has somewhat declined in Spain and Italy whilst it has increased amongst German respondents between June and July.
Higher confidence in going grocery shopping may be because it is seen as an essential activity. Whether consumers will continue to shop for their groceries online once life returns to normal remains however to be seen.
Likely as a result of their confidence in going shopping for groceries in store, German respondents were the least likely to have had groceries delivered since the start of the crisis with only 17% having done so against roughly 40% of Spanish and Italian respondents. About a third (31%) of French respondents had groceries delivered. The different restrictions induced by the lockdown in each country may well account for our findings, with Spaniards and Italians having been far more restricted in their movements during lockdown than Germans.
When compared to a month ago, we found that a larger proportion of consumers had had groceries delivered in all four countries except in Germany which suffered from a slight decrease. Back in June, 19% of Germans had groceries delivered.
It seems online shopping may be here for good, judging by the popularity of the service even after lockdown restrictions have been lifted. Overall, our findings suggest that online shopping might have a brighter future for retail stores than for supermarkets. Indeed, regarding grocery sales online, it remains to be seen whether supermarkets will be able to face an increase in demand as e-commerce requires extensive resources for often small profits. In the UK, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has floated the idea of a tax on online sales in order to save shops unable to compete against them, a move which could cross the channel if online shopping continues to increase in Europe to the detriment of the high street.