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How Do Brits Like to Spend Their Money Online?

LONDON - England - What sort of things do Brits like to spend their money on online? We examine the spending habits in the UK.

With the prices of everything painfully higher these days than just a few years ago, it’s unsurprising that our spending habits have changed in response – even after efforts to curb inflation have been made. While overall spending has decreased, particularly for categories like eating out or buying clothing, many still spend money online. When it comes to Brits, the following are some of their most popular online purchases.

Photo by Paul Felberbauer on Unsplash

Online Shopping

When discussing where people’s money goes online, it’s only natural that the topic of online shopping or e-commerce stores comes up, as it easily makes up the bulk of online spending.

In the United Kingdom, 80% of people shop online. However, even this popular shopping method has felt the effects of increased inflation. Overall, shopping online has decreased, with Britain’s spending dropping from £250 billion to £244 billion in 2021 and 2022 and continuing to fall in 2023 to £217 billion. Considering this drop is happening amidst inflation, this is undoubtedly a significant overall decrease.

The money spent at e-commerce stores typically goes towards clothing, electronics, furniture, beauty products, food, and people’s hobbies.

Clothing

Clothing is easily the most popular online purchase, with 60% of shoppers purchasing clothing online. Closely following this is shoes, with 38% of shoppers purchasing them online and another 25% also purchasing their accessories and bags online.

Electronics

A significant number of British shoppers, just over 20%, purchase electronics online, but the majority of electronic purchases are still made in-store. A few factors can be credited to this in-store preference, such as long shipping times and higher shipping rates, particularly for larger or more expensive products (like a TV). Another reason for this preference for in-person electronics shopping is the opportunity to try the products before purchasing (since online reviews and product descriptions can only tell you so much about these things).

Beauty Products

Nearly one-third of online shoppers spend money on beauty products. What’s interesting about this category is that people will often continue or increase their beauty or cosmetic product spending during times of economic turbulence. It’s a phenomenon called the Lipstick Effect, where small, lower-cost everyday luxury purchases, like lipstick, increase amid uncertainty.

Of course, when this theory was developed, online shopping wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today, so how the phenomenon would impact online spending has only recently been discussed. However, when looking at 2022 online spending habits, this effect has also played out in the same way for online shopping as it did for more traditional forms of shopping. Skincare products and apparel by designer brands appeared to be the small luxury items UK shoppers (and even US shoppers) honed in on as they decreased other spending but still wanted to treat themselves.

online shopping

Furniture & Home Goods

While plenty of online shoppers are willing to spend money at online stores on items like furniture or decor for their homes, much like electronics, most people still make these purchases in stores. The reasons for this in-store furniture shopping preference overlap with shopping for electronics, with shoppers wanting to see and test items in person.

Food

Seeing food on this list might give you momentary pause, but when you consider that you make food delivery or even grocery store pick-up or delivery purchases online, it’s less eye-brow-raising. Once you consider all the ways you can buy food online, it almost seems surprising that only 31% of online shoppers spend in this category.

Hobbies

Another big category for online shopping is to support our hobbies. In the UK, nearly 20% of shoppers spend money on books, DIY supplies, gardening products, stationery, and other materials.

Subscription Services

Subscription services are increasingly popular; on average, Brits spend £500 each year. The most popular services are streaming providers for movies and TV shows, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, NOW TV, and BritBox. Following streaming services for movies and TV are those for music streaming services like Amazon Music, Apple Music, and Spotify.

But subscription services can encompass much more than just streaming services. Brits also have access to online subscriptions for platforms that provide news, audiobooks, live sports, workouts, and gaming memberships.

There are even subscriptions for physical products, with items arriving at subscriber doorsteps at regular intervals. Common subscription boxes in Britain include makeup, houseplants, alcohol, and books.

Online Gaming & Gambling

Gaming has always been a popular spending category in the UK, so, unsurprisingly, it has become an area where many Brits enjoy spending their money online. As noted in the previous section, gaming memberships are one way gamers spend online, but they aren’t the only way. Gamers can buy games online that they can download to their computer or gaming system and make one-time purchases within games.

Online gambling has also become a popular place for online spending around the world, including for Britons. Within regulated online casinos, UK players who use Paysafecard or other popular payment methods can find a wide array of gaming and betting options, and it’s this access and variety that have helped shape this multi-billion dollar online spending category.

Booking Travel Accommodations

Another way Brits love to spend money is on experiences like travelling. In fact, experiences have remained a priority in British spending even as other areas of people’s budgets are reduced. While in-person travel agents and companies are still common, many turn to online options to book their tickets and accommodations for a trip.

From splurging on the things that bring joy to fuelling entertainment and real-world experiences, online spending is done in many ways in Britain. It shapes everyday life and has become a common practice for the majority of people residing here.

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