During the COVID-19 crisis, 71% of consumers in both the U.S. and U.K. expect goods ordered online to arrive in a week or less.

Zach Thomann: executive vice president and general manager, PFS

Zach Thomann: executive vice president and general manager, PFS

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

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

Coronavirus drives more U.S. shoppers to ecommerce 

With the rise of social distancing, consumers have brushed aside typical shopping behaviors. The weekly trip to the grocery store or swinging by the drug 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 toilet paper, has led to a decrease in foot traffic in physical retail locations. Consumers have attempted to adhere to social distancing guidelines and have especially avoided the risk of going to the store if the goods they need aren’t even available.

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% of U.S. consumers to buy goods online that they had not considered before the pandemic. For millennials, this figure rises to 75% , showcasing that younger shoppers have been even more inclined to handle their shopping online.

However, for U.K. consumers, the data tells a different story. 39% of U.K. shoppers have purchased new goods online due to the pandemic, though the figure rises to 52% for U.K. millennials. This difference could be for a few reasons. Perhaps U.K. 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 U.S. consumers. Regardless of the shopping variances of the two regions, 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 U.S. and U.K. 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% of both U.S. and U.K. shoppers expect goods to arrive in a week or less. This compares to 83% in the U.S. pre-pandemic and 90% for the UK. Interestingly, despite the vast geographic differences between the U.S. and the UK, shoppers from both areas have the same fulfillment expectations. The US, which is almost 3.8 million square miles, is roughly 40 times the United Kingdom’s size. For an even clearer picture, just under three United Kingdoms would fit Texas alone. Regardless of the sheer difference in landmass, U.S. 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% in the U.S. and 19% in the U.K. 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 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.

PFS, part of PFSweb Inc. offers retailers services in such areas as fulfillment, customer service and fraud prevention.