1 in 3 Brits ordered food online for first time during lockdown, claims research

Internet, News

Over a third of Brits have tried a local small restaurant or shop for the first time by ordering food online during the Coronavirus lockdowns, new research from Internet Association (IA) reveals today. 

And with 71 percent of small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) surveyed planning to continue selling products online after the end of lockdown, the research highlights how changing consumer habits have opened new revenue streams – both during the pandemic and into the future – for small businesses in the UK. 

As non-essential retail and restaurants prepare to open their doors on Monday, the findings show how the internet played a vital role in helping SMEs continue selling products throughout the pandemic, and how shopping behaviours will change after lockdown eases. 

The extent to which the internet has given SMEs the opportunity to continue selling products throughout the pandemic is clear – with 30 per cent offering a delivery function for the first time and 20 per cent offering online sales for the first time in order to continue being able to earn revenue while their shops were shut. 

The figures also highlight how the public used the internet to try local small shops and restaurants for the first time during the pandemic – as well as detailing the changing behaviour between online and in-person shopping that will remain once the lockdown eases next week. 

The new research – conducted by Public First on behalf of Internet Association – shows:

  • Nearly half of the public (48%) ordered food or drinks online from local restaurants during coronavirus lockdowns.
  • 36 per cent of the public tried a local shop or food outlet for the first time by ordering online during the pandemic, with three quarters (76 per cent) of those people now planning on visiting the outlet physically for the first time once restrictions are eased;
  • More people now plan on taking a blended approach to their shopping habits from next week, with 29 per cent now saying they will shop half online, half in person (up from 23 per cent saying the same of their habits before the coronavirus pandemic);
  • This blended approach from consumers is also expected by SMEs. When asked about their pre-pandemic sales, 17 percent said they had a mixture of online and in-store sales. However, a quarter (25 percent) now expect to have a mixture of online and in-store sales once retail reopens next week. 

An IA spokesperson said:

“This new research shows how the internet has played a vital role during the lockdowns over the last 12 months. Importantly, it also shows how the internet can help drive the UK recovery forward. The way people work, shop, and do business may have changed for good – it is clear that the internet sector can help ensure that those changes boost the UK economy, communities, and wider society.

The new research of SMEs also showed:

  • 61 per cent of SMEs surveyed said their business would not have been able to survive without using the internet to sell products during the lockdown;
  • 20 per cent set up a social media page for the first time, helping firms expand their reach while physical shops had to be closed;
  • 25 per cent allowed staff to work from home for the first time.
Chris Price
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