First ‘digital Christmas’ drives delivery anxiety as Brits flock to digital high street


Retail experts now warn of a tough December for the high street, after a record-breaking Black Friday weekend in online sales. Digital commerce and location intelligence experts from GBG offered the warning, in a comprehensive new report on consumers’ festive shopping hopes and fears: Christmas Unwrapped.

GBG, whose eCommerce experts work with over half the UK’s top retailers including ASOS, Gymshark, and Boohoo, found that less than a third of shoppers will return to the high street once lockdown restrictions lift. The report, based on a poll of 1,000 consumers, also uncovered a rise in ‘delivery delay anxiety’: with 8 in 10 concerned about the impact of late deliveries, and a number of high-profile products launches suffering from low inventory this year, consumers confessed they have been panic buying earlier as a result.

As shoppers head online early and retailers encourage early orders to guarantee delivery, the importance of fast, reliable, and accurate deliveries has never been more important in what GBG has dubbed the ‘first digital Christmas’.

Key findings in GBG’s Christmas Unwrapped report include:


Getting parcels home for the holidays

  • Despite COVID-19 restrictions, consumers have high expectations of gift delivery this year. More than two thirds (69%) expect to have gifts delivered direct to the intended recipient, or to their own address to give to the recipient in person. This rises to 76% of people aged between 18-29.
  • More than 8 in 10 shoppers (81%) are concerned about late deliveries spoiling their plans – rising to 88% for Londoners.
  • ‘Availability anxiety’ has been driving consumers to buy sooner rather than later, and is a key consideration for 43% of people in choosing gifts. This anxiety rises the younger the consumer. A quarter of those aged 18-29 say they are very concerned, compared to just 7% of over-60s.
  • According to third party research, last year saw eCommerce spike 29% during the holidays, increasing average delivery times by 51%, even for retailers who had extra staff on hand.


Deck the digital high street

  • Less than one third of Brits plan to do any shopping in-store before Christmas after lockdown ends on December 2. Those aged 30-44 plan to do 70% of their shopping online, compared to 68% of 18-29 and 45-60 year-olds, and 62% of over-60 year-olds.
  • Online shopping priorities include free (51%) and fast (43%) delivery, ahead of getting a good deal (41%).
  • Contactless delivery is also a key consideration this year for a fifth of people, including a quarter of those over 60 year-olds.
  • Mobile shopping continues to rise, as more than 6 in 10 use their mobile (61%) to make their holiday purchases. This includes 72% of people aged 30-44 and 71% of those between 18-29. Those over 60 continue to prefer shopping via computer.


No Scrooges here!

  • Third party data projects Christmas spending to be more spread out this year compared to 2019, with 24% of consumers shopping earlier than they did last year.
  • In fact, 61% of consumers are planning to spend the same or more than last year, compared to the 39% planning to spend less this holiday season.
  • Of those planning to spend more, 15% expect to spend between £500 and £1,000 on gifts, while 5% are planning to spend £1,000 to £1,500. A further 2% expect their budgets to reach £1,500 or more.


Avoiding Blue January for retail (vertical pitches only)

  • Businesses now face a ‘huge test’ as close to half (43%) of Brits have said they will not buy from a retailer again if their first order isn’t delivered on time during the festive season.
  • Almost half of respondents (44%) say auto-complete address verification increases their trust in the retailer and its checkout and delivery operations. This is highlighted most among 18-29 year-olds (56%), but strongly recognised by over 60 year-olds as well (29%).
  • Recommendations to retailers for optimising their festive season, and retaining customers moving into 2021 include:
    • Ensure that orders get from point A to point B by hiring extra dispatchers and drivers if needed.
    • Deliver simple, seamless online experiences for all. Consumers over 60 are now turning to ecommerce more regularly, and this festive season is a for retailers to keep them online long term.
    • Implement smart technologies to make shopping easy: auto-complete and data verification make sure that check out processes are simple and fast, while also confirming delivery details to ensure Christmas reaches every customer, everywhere, in time for Christmas.


Of the research and Golden Quarter trends, Matthew Furneaux – eCommerce expert and Director at GBG, said, “Generation Zoom have made their intentions clear: they don’t plan to let COVID-19 steal Christmas this year. Rather, what we’re seeing a spike as Brits dash to the digital high street to stock up on festive favourites and gifts for friends and family. While this year’s Black Friday was a success by any measure, consumers are more concerned with ordering and receiving in time for Christmas than on getting the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.”

“As demand continues into December, it will be critical that retailers make a good impression with consumers, if they hope to retain their customer base headed into 2021. Consumers have been vocal this season about just how important fulfilment and delivery matters – this has a direct impact on brand loyalty when retailers fail to meet the demand. Address recognition and other technologies can help retailers establish and keep customer trust headed into the new year. By implementing smart technologies like auto-complete and data verification, check out processes are simple and fast, and delivery details are confirmed and accurate to ensure Christmas reaches every customer, everywhere, in time for Christmas.”