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4 Stats on How Young WE Consumers Are Shopping Now

The pandemic reshaped the way young consumers shop. These four stats show how young Europeans are shopping now…


The pandemic reshaped shopping in many ways, but the biggest was the move to online. With stores closed and the majority of young Europeans craving retail therapy to boost their spirits, shopping was forced to go virtual. But now it seems this shift is here to say: YPulse’s recent Western Europe Shopping and Retail report found that the majority (55%) of 13-39-year-old European consumers now prefer to shop online compared to shopping in a physical store. When we asked those who prefer shopping online why that’s their preference, their top answer was that online shops are open 24/7, followed by the fact that online shops offer more options—and more sales. Nearly half also told us that they prefer to shop online because going to the store in person is too much of a hassle or because they just don’t have the time for it. Now, three in five 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe agree with the statement, “No matter what stores do to make visiting more interesting, I am still going to shop online for many things,” making one thing clear: pandemic or no pandemic, the future—and the present—of shopping is online.

What does this look like in action? Here are four stats from our recent behavioral report that reveal how 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe are shopping online now:

Nearly nine in 10 young European consumers are regularly shopping online.

When we asked 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe where they’re shopping regularly, the majority said either a website, mobile app, social media, or livestream, making digital their top destination for shopping. By comparison, just 54% said they’re regularly shopping in a physical store. Again, the pandemic drove this forward, with brick-and-mortar retailers quickly expanding their online offerings. In Western Europe, e-commerce accounted for more than €30 billion in spending in 2020, according to Nielsen, with the rate of ecommerce growth seven times higher than offline growth in France and 16 times higher in Italy. Early during the pandemic, click and collect features in the U.K. saw an increase of 35% week-on-week, and fast fashion etailers like Shein and Zalando saw their revenues soar. Meanwhile, online grocery shopping grew exponentially: Online grocery sales more than doubled in Italy, online business for U.K. grocery chain Tesco grew from 9% of total sales to 16%, and online supermarket Ocado Retail saw a tenfold increase in demand while web traffic grew to 100 times higher than pre-pandemic levels. 

The majority want online shopping to be an experience, too.

While shopping is often a necessity and sometimes a splurge, the majority of young consumers tell us that, for them, shopping is an experience—and 69% want that experience online, too. YPulse has long tracked the experiencification of retail, which includes letting customers loiter in-store and at creative activations. This has quickly become a popular tactic for brick-and-mortar brands to build future sales leads—and rack up social media impressions in the process. But experiencification isn’t limited to IRL events. In fact, when we asked 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe to tell us what shopping experiences they’re interested in, many were either possible online or exclusively online experiences. More than four in five young Europeans are interested in product customization, for instance, while 77% want click-and-collect curbside pickup, and 57% are interested in shopping via livestream. Amazon helped boost livestreaming last year, and others followed suit: Instagram influencers are now allowed to sell products on livestreams, and this summer Facebook launched Live Shopping Fridays with makeup and apparel brands. The U.K. also just saw the launch of its first livestream entertainment shopping platform, OOOOO, which promises shoppable programs from top online influencers. The pandemic also sparked one brand to imagine online shopping becoming a social experience. Targeting Gen Z, the platform Squadded Shopping Party functions as a browser extension that lets young shoppers shop together from WE favorite ecommerce sites such as ASOS, Boohoo, Missguided, Na-kd, and Pretty Little Thing, as well as interact with the brand’s community, explore new fashion trends, and ask for styling tips.

Nearly half want to shop via social media. 

While just one in five young European consumers tell us they’ve actually purchased something from their social media feeds, nearly half say they’d rather buy something they see on social media than browse for items on retail sites. YPulse has been tracking social media’s transformation into a marketplace for a while now, but the pandemic blew this trend up. With lockdowns in place and physical stores shuttered, young consumers in Western Europe relied on their social media feeds for shopping inspiration and purchasing opportunities. Now, young consumers are more open to shopping and advertising on social media than ever. In our recent social and mobile marketing preferences survey, 83% of young European consumers told us they’re open to seeing ads on one or more social platform, and over a third of social media users say that platforms often feature products and services they’re interested in buying.  Meanwhile, 63% of 13-39-olds in Western Europe say they like seeing personalized shopping recommendations when scrolling through their feeds, and brands and platforms are already responding. Last year, Facebook and Instagram began allowing users to browse and buy products directly from business pages and profiles, with Facebook Shops expanding the site’s already-popular Marketplace feature to include established brands and businesses. Instagram, meanwhile, loosened restrictions to allow creators and influencers to sell directly from their profiles, opening the potential for the social site to become a “lucrative direct-to-consumer launchpad” for influencers. Last year also brought Pinterest’s Shopping Lens, which allows users to scan any item in real life to find it for sale online, as well as TikTok’s Shop Now feature and SnapChat’s first shoppable show, “The Drop.” In other words, 2020 was the year shopping went social—and young European consumers are here for it. 

But 86% say they’ve come across an issue while shopping online. 

All that said, only 12% of young European consumers say they haven’t come across any issues while shopping online, revealing some hurdles that will require creative solutions to solve. The top issue they cite is not being able to try on or see products in person, followed closely by not wanting to pay for shipping. Twenty-nine percent also say they feel impatient about waiting for the delivery to come. While the latter two issues are becoming less prevalent as companies up their logistics game to meet demand, seeing products IRL isn’t so easy to replicate. But 75% of 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe tell us they’re interested in augmented reality try-ons and many brands are giving it a go. ASOS debuted an AR tool for online shoppers last year, which allowed them to see simulated views of models wearing the site’s clothing and accessories. Meanwhile, virtual beauty try-ons surged during quarantine. According to WWD, Ulta Beauty launched their GlamLab virtual try-on feature in 2016, but usage jumped to 13 million shade try-ons early last year. And earlier this year, Pinterest joined the club with a new feature that let customers digitally try on eyeshadow shades from Lancome, YSL and NYX Cosmetics. Beyond beauty, retailers like Wayfair and IKEA also released 3D and augmented reality tools to help furniture shoppers “try before they buy,” showing that even the biggest issues with online shopping can be overcome. 

YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full WE shopping and retail behavioral report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Western Europe Business account? Find out more here.