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Coronavirus Consumer Research


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes in consumer retail behaviour – from the types of goods they buy to their expectation of delivery times. These behaviours vary across age brackets and geographies. The impacts of social distancing will be long-lasting around the world, as pre-pandemic retail behaviours will likely be changed forever.

To get a pulse of how consumer behaviour has shifted around the world, PFS recently surveyed 2,000 UK and 2,000 US consumers to gauge the impacts COVID-19 has on retail. The findings show an array of similarities and differences in shopping behaviours for two unique regions. Despite their cultural and geographic differences, it is clear the pandemic will have enduring impacts for consumers across the United Kingdom and the United States.

Less UK Shoppers Turn to eCommerce

With the rise of social distancing, typical shopping behaviours have been brushed aside. The weekly trip to the supermarket or swinging by a store after work to grab a few things have become very atypical habits. This coupled with brick-and-mortar supply issues and widespread shortages of everyday essentials from meats to medicines and, of course, toilet paper (1), led to a decrease in foot traffic in physical retail locations. Consumers have attempted to adhere to social distancing guidelines and have either avoided the risk of visiting a store if the goods they need aren’t available or have been unable to shop in a store due to lockdown restrictions.

As a result, we have seen COVID-19 serve as the inflection point in the shift towards eCommerce. From our recent research, COVID-19 has encouraged 63 percent of US consumers to buy goods online that they had not considered before the pandemic. For Millennials, this figure rises to 75 percent showcasing that younger shoppers have been even more inclined to handle their shopping online.

However, for UK consumers, the data tells a different story. 39 percent of UK shoppers have purchased new goods online due to the pandemic, though the figure rises to 52 percent for UK Millennials. This difference could be for a few reasons. Perhaps UK shoppers have already embraced eCommerce for more retail categories than the United States. Or, the pandemic has caused a much more drastic shift away from brick-and-mortar for US consumers. Regardless of the shopping variances of the two regions, it is clear that COVID-19 has made similar impacts on younger shoppers. As expected, Millennials and Generation Z have embraced online shopping more quickly than older shoppers. Yet, as the pandemic drags on, many Baby Boomers and Generation X consumers will be forced to adopt online shopping out of necessity.

Delivery Demands Have Not Wavered

While UK and US shoppers may differ on their rate of eCommerce usage in the pandemic, what they have in common is their delivery expectations. Despite the impacts of COVID-19 to global supply chains, 71 percent of both UK and US shoppers expect goods to be delivered in a week or less. This compares to 83 percent in the US pre-pandemic and 90 percent for the UK. Interestingly, despite the vast geographic differences between the UK and the US, shoppers from both areas have the same fulfilment expectations. The US, which is almost 3.8 million square miles, is roughly 40 times the size of the United Kingdom. For an even clearer picture, just under three United Kingdoms would fit in the state of Texas alone.(2) Regardless of the sheer difference in landmass, US shoppers still expect a delivery turnaround equivalent to their friends across the pond.

Further, Millennials are unsurprisingly the most demanding of all demographics. During the pandemic, 24 percent in the US and 19 percent in the UK still expect delivery within 24 hours. Consumers are not concerned with the back-end difficulties of sourcing goods during this time. Instead, they expect a seamless eCommerce experience, from checkout to last-mile delivery. Brands must be able to overcome the supply chain challenges of COVID-19 to meet this demand.

Our data reveals that shoppers around the world are turning to eCommerce at a rapid pace. Alternative eCommerce solutions like pop-up distribution centres or ship-from-store products like our RetailConnect can help ease this transition to the new world of retail. However, despite the challenges COVID-19 has thrown merchants, consumers still expect experiences consistent with those before the pandemic.

2020 US vs UK COVID Consumer Infographic



With extensive experience in 3PL, end-to-end, and omni-channel commerce solutions, Zach Thomann leads the PFS Operations practice as EVP and GM. He’s held multiple VP and GM roles within our business, and continues to innovate our processes and capabilities.