The global pandemic changed the way we interact with each other, and with brands. Driven by emotional and transactional needs, consumers across the world have demonstrated their values – and indicated their plans for the future.

In mid-2021, the Qualtrics XM Institute surveyed over 1,000 people in the UK as part of its wider global study of 18,000 people. We wanted to understand not only what changed last year, but what we can expect for the future. Will consumers’ new methods of communicating, shopping, and carrying out daily tasks continue, or will offline have its renaissance?

You can download the UK consumer trends report here.

“Our research shows that consumers are not going back to the way things were,” said Bruce Temkin, Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. “Consumers have adapted to a new, digital-first landscape, and the experiences that they have with brands across digital channels directly impact their purchasing decisions. In order to be successful, organisations need to prepare for the future instead of trying to recreate the past.”

Here are 10 key findings from research conducted in the UK.

1. Consumers went digital, and many of them are not going back

The pandemic forced consumers to go digital almost overnight. More than 64% of UK consumers switched to online channels to run errands and stay connected. For example, 19% of consumers caught up with family and friends over a video call, 15% of consumers started ordering groceries, and 16% received medical advice.

2. UK consumers turned to digital solutions to manage their money

A larger number of UK consumers are looking to use more online banking services post-COVID, rather than less. That’s in contrast to Germany where consumers want to return to offline banking. This correlates with an above-average level of satisfaction with recent interactions with UK banks (80%) and credit card companies (82%).

3. Brits are looking forward to hanging up on video calls

Online video calls kept us connected during the pandemic. From all the interviewees, 19% of UK consumers logged on for the first time – but our study suggests consumers expect to do far fewer online calls once life returns to normal.

4. We’re going to see more parcels on doorsteps post-COVID

Many of us relied on online shopping during COVID for essential supplies (plus exercise equipment, barbecues, bicycles, TVs, cooking, hair clippers, instruments, baking trays and the rest). The extraordinary demand placed on online retailers could have crashed the industry, but the reverse happened – online retailers have a high satisfaction rating (84%). Overall, people expect to do more online shopping post-pandemic, rather than less.

5. There’s something irreplaceable about supermarket shopping

While UK consumers are expecting to do more online shopping, a huge number of people are looking to get back to stores for buying food. Supermarkets remained open during all UK lockdowns, and they proved with a good customer experience delivery that people want to reduce their reliance on home deliveries in a post-COVID world.

6. Movie theatres may struggle in the UK post-pandemic

We can see in the data that UK consumers are looking forward to more in-person communal activities. Except in one area: watching movies and TVs online. More people expect to be binge-watching shows through 2021 and 2022, than less. It’s remarkable to think demand for streaming services may continue to go up, given the high level of viewership before and during the pandemic. Movie theatre chains in the UK might find it challenging to rethink and redesign the movie-going experience to get consumers out of the house.

7. UK consumers are more price-conscious than the rest of Europe

The UK is well above the global average of consumers who would select a company on price. Globally, only Canadian consumers attach more importance to the price tag than UK consumers. It seems 26% of Brits would select a brand on price, all other things being equal.

8. Organisations’ actions matter, but they may not trump price, product and service

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has its place in consumer purchasing decisions, but it’s not the number one factor in the UK. Only 13% of people – in the bottom 5 globally – would pick a brand that does good things for society over all other factors, far behind Spain at 21%.

9. Healthcare is the highest-rated industry for satisfaction in the UK

The majority of Brits had positive recent experiences with hospitals or GP clinics, with 85% of people saying they were somewhat or extremely satisfied. The weekly Clap for Heroes and continued goodwill around the NHS suggests this is one industry that truly met the challenge of COVID-19.

10. UK consumers increasingly expect great experiences across multiple platforms

Organisations need to invest in delivering quality customer service and meet people where they are—whether that’s online, in-person or somewhere in between. For example, to apply for a bank account, 15% of consumers prefer to do so over the phone, 45% through self-service methods, 31% in person, and 9% through online chat.

Download the full UK consumer trends report.

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