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UK consumer spending significantly less this holiday season, research shows

Retailers will need to adapt to changing customer expectations to secure much-needed profits

Elevated customer expectations and tighter budgets will make 2020 holiday shopping more competitive than ever for retailers, as 95% plan to spend the same or less than last year according to new research conducted by SAS, the leader in analytics.

Nearly half (48%) of UK citizens reported they plan to spend less on end of year expenditure this year. This included nearly one in five (18%) who said they would be spending less than half their usual amount.

As well as smaller customer budgets, retailers must prepare for high expectations when it comes service quality. A third of customers would ditch companies after just one poor experience, while 90% would abandon companies after just two-to-five poor examples of customer service, before moving to competing brands.

The shift to online shopping is a further hurdle for many traditional high street retailers. One in 10 (11%) customers started using a digital retail service or app for the first time since lockdown, while 14% used a grocery app for the first time. In each case, over half expect to continue using online services in the future. High street stores must quickly adapt to understand this new online customer base, so they can optimise online experiences and manage high volumes of orders through digital channels as the holidays approach.

Retailers must listen to customers if they hope to secure not only a profitable season but long-term loyalty: almost three-fifths (59%) of citizens said they would pay more to buy and/or use products and services from businesses that provided them with a good customer experience during the pandemic.

Andrew Fowkes, Global Retail Practice, SAS, said:

“This season will be a new experience for retailers and shoppers alike. Customer expectations are forcing retailers to digitally transform faster than many are comfortable with, and this highlights the opportunity in using data analytics to predict customer needs and grow profitability. With budgets extremely tight, retailers must remain competitive by ensuring they have the right technologies to keep online stores, call centres, and home deliveries working smoothly. Optimising these processes for truly personalised customer experiences is not possible without a deep analytical understanding of the customer. The reward is not only a profitable holiday season, but long-term customer loyalty to see businesses through the oncoming recession.”

For more insight into consumer attitudes across EMEA during the pandemic, download the full report: Experience 2030: Has COVID-19 created a new kind of customer? 


Research was conducted and statistics compiled for SAS by 3Gem. Consumers completed an online questionnaire in August 2020 across a number of markets (UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Greece, Saudi Arabia and South Africa) adding up to a global sample of 10,000 adults over the age of 18.

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