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Online or In-Store? Here’s How Young Europeans Are Shopping Now

After two years of virtual shopping, IRL retail is making a comeback. So how do young Europeans want to shop now? Two charts tell the story…


TL;DR

  • Online shopping was overshadowing IRL retail long before the pandemic, but lockdowns made virtual shopping young Europeans’ norm
  • Young Europeans are still shopping online regularly more than anywhere else, but they’re shopping in-person more this year than last
  • Since last year, young Europeans’ shopping preferences have flipped, hinting at the future of the retail sector

For reasons we don’t have to explain, 2020 and 2021 turned shopping into an almost completely virtual experience for young consumers—and it seemed like they embraced it wholeheartedly. The death of the high street was a looming threat in Western Europe even before the pandemic, of course, but with brick and mortars shuttered and lockdowns in place, the transition from getting some stuff online to getting everything online was an easy one for many young Europeans. In fact, when YPulse asked 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe how they preferred to shop a year ago, the majority said online rather than in-store, indicating that shopping virtually would likely remain the norm long after COVID. Meanwhile, the pandemic sped along the rise of mobile shopping and social commerce, making young consumers’ phones central to their retail habits.

But it turns out the retail landscape post-pandemic doesn’t look so different from the pre-pandemic one. Though the global social commerce industry is expected to grow three times as fast as traditional ecommerce to become worth $1.2 trillion by 2025, its progress has stalled as young consumers venture back out. TikTok recently abandoned its Shop rollout in the U.S. after it flopped in the U.K., and Meta shut down its live commerce initiative on Facebook as well as its affiliate product tagging option on Instagram due to lackluster interest. Meanwhile, 64% of young Europeans tell YPulse they’re now comfortable shopping in-person, +15pts more than this time last year. So how are they shopping now, and what is online or IRL their preference? Two charts from our recent Shopping and Retail report tell the story:

Unsurprisingly, young Europeans are still regularly shopping online more than anywhere else—and that’s not likely to stop. Over half (58%) agree with the statement, “No matter what stores do to make visiting more interesting, I am still going to shop online for many things,” and the majority say they’re interested in many virtual shopping experiences, including livestream shopping (62%) and augmented reality try-ons (77%). But compared to 2021, they’re 5pts less likely to be regularly shopping on a store/brand website or online marketplace, and 9pts more likely to say they’re regularly buying at physical stores. Indeed, physical retail is rebounding across Western Europe, and despite concerns about inflation and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, young consumers are still spending.

Meanwhile, shopping via mobile and livestream has stayed steady since last year while their social media shopping has dipped slightly. But when combined, 82% of young consumers are regularly shopping via a website, mobile app, social media, or livestream compared to 63% who are shopping IRL, which makes clear that online shopping is still their dominant form. But that doesn’t mean it’s their preference:

Last year, online shopping officially became young Europeans’ preferred way to shop when 55% told YPulse they’d rather log on virtually than visit a store IRL. But this year, their preference has flipped, indicating that the rebound of brick-and-mortar retail could continue. Brands should keep in mind, though, that young Europeans want shopping to be an experience, and that drawing them in-store may be about more than what’s on the shelves.

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

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