UK Online Commerce Remains High Despite Small Contraction in June

by Adobe Communications Team

Posted on 08-06-2020

Faced with shop clo­sures and spend­ing most of their time at home, UK con­sumers took their spend­ing online dur­ing the first few months of the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, buy­ing every­thing from gro­ceries to elec­tron­ics from the safe­ty of their homes. Fol­low­ing an ear­ly surge, online pur­chas­es slowed in June for the first time in months, accord­ing to UK fig­ures from Adobe’s Dig­i­tal Econ­o­my Index.

The data, which is based on an analy­sis of 1 tril­lion vis­its to com­merce sites, includ­ing some of the UK’s biggest retail­ers and more than 100 mil­lion indi­vid­ual prod­uct SKUs, revealed that online sales fell 7.8% in June, fol­low­ing con­sec­u­tive month-on-month growth aver­ag­ing 30% from March to May[1].

“The sum­mer months always see a slow­down in con­sumer spend­ing, and after sharp increas­es in online shop­ping, the small dip in June is to be expect­ed,” says Lee Edwards, Gen­er­al Man­ag­er of Adobe in North­ern Europe and EMEA. “How­ev­er, online sales remain buoy­ant as we enter the sec­ond half of 2020, and retail­ers will con­tin­ue to focus on deliv­er­ing great dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences for their cus­tomers while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly get­ting their shops back to full capacity.”

A mixed bag for gro­cers and apparel

As an essen­tial ser­vice, gro­cers have fared bet­ter than most dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. Con­sumers faced sig­nif­i­cant­ly restrict­ed options and were quick to embrace online food shop­ping as a viable alter­na­tive, cul­mi­nat­ing in May with an 81% rise in online purchases.

That said, the June data paints a more bal­anced pic­ture, with online orders dip­ping 1.3% in this cat­e­go­ry. With the slow­down expect­ed as con­sumers begin to vis­it shops in a more famil­iar way, the small drop demon­strates that the vast major­i­ty of con­sumers are still stick­ing to online for some or all of their gro­cery shopping

“Pro­vid­ing online gro­cery deliv­ery is an incred­i­bly com­plex busi­ness, and the fig­ures show just how hard it remains for super­mar­kets and gro­cery sup­pli­ers to plan and fore­cast effec­tive­ly,” says Edwards. “At the start of the pan­dem­ic, super­mar­kets had to con­tend with nev­er-before-seen lev­els of demand and now, as phys­i­cal shops become more viable, they need to strike a prof­itable bal­ance between their online and in-store offer­ings with­out com­pro­mis­ing on either.”

For their part, fash­ion brands also saw a drop in online sales, falling 12% in June after grow­ing by 31% in May.

Elec­tron­ics charge forth

The elec­tron­ics sec­tor was a par­tic­u­lar­ly bright spot in an uncer­tain time. Adobe’s DEI data found that after a sta­ble April and May, online elec­tron­ics pur­chas­es jumped 27% in June, near­ly match­ing the 31% peak elec­tron­ics brands saw at the begin­ning of the pandemic.

“The resilience of these com­pa­nies is more than just an eco­nom­ic indi­ca­tor, it is a telling sign of how we have all adapt­ed to lock­down life,” says Edwards. “Remote work­ing looks set to con­tin­ue for many of us, and the data shows that con­sumers are con­tin­u­ing to invest in the tech­nol­o­gy they need to make the most of life at home, for both work and play”.

Adapt­ing to a new normal

Until recent­ly, UK retail­ers had been rely­ing on a “COVID surge” in online activ­i­ty to off­set the lack of foot­fall in their shops, but the data sug­gests that we have now reached a new phase of con­sumer behav­iour that requires some fur­ther adjustments.

The data shows that many con­sumers have been won over by online shop­ping, even if they were new to it in March when lock­down rules were intro­duced. As restric­tions ease and con­sumers return to more famil­iar rou­tines and shop­ping habits, retail­ers should think care­ful­ly about the dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences they deliv­er to help them car­ry for­ward the strong momen­tum in their online businesses.

“Stay-at-home mea­sures have start­ed to ease, giv­ing con­sumers more options when it comes to how they shop. After see­ing the pen­du­lum swing heav­i­ly towards online in the past few months, retail­ers will need to stay atten­tive to under­stand which lock­down habits their cus­tomers stick with, and which ones they drop,” says Edwards.

See more insights from Adobe’s Dig­i­tal Econ­o­my Index (DEI) report.

[1] March: +31%, April: +26%, May: +31%

Topics: Commerce, Digital Economy Index, retail, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA