• Paul Kelson

UK shoppers prefer small local shops during COVID crisis

Brits have changed their purchasing behaviour to support small local businesses since the pandemic, according to research.

Around 2,100 adults were questioned - in commissioned research from stock photo and video company iStock - and found that almost half of Millennials (49 per cent) believed supporting small and local businesses that are struggling during the pandemic was important.

Among those, 42 per cent have actively changed their shopping habits as a result.

In comparison, even though more Baby Boomers (58 per cent) agreed that it was important to support local businesses that are currently struggling, less than a third (30 per cent) of them have actively changed their behaviour.

Across all generations, UK consumers are now around three times more likely to trust small and local shops rather than large retailers, with the main reason cited being that small businesses “care more about their customers than large retailers”.

Among Millennials who said they prefer to shop at small and local businesses, supporting the local economy (77 per cent), a more personalised customer service (29 per cent), and a unique range of products that can’t be found elsewhere (22 per cent) were the top three reasons given.

Millennials said they would spend more with small businesses if they offered more competitive prices (35 per cent), more convenient delivery options (30 per cent) and more payment options (24 per cent).

Baby Boomers on the other hand care less about delivery and payment options but more about competitive pricing (41 per cent) or a broader product range (29 per cent).

Video and image adverts published on social media have an impact on 42 per cent of Millennials, with 36 per cent saying diversity and equality illustrated in content was important to them.

In these challenging times, 26 per cent of Baby Boomers and 36 per cent of Millennials said they would like to see “more humorous” content from brands.

Sustainability is also a topic relevant for 25 per cent of Baby Boomers and for 38 per cent of Millennials.

Small businesses who source locally, or are particularly eco-friendly, should therefore ensure to promote this in their branding.

Jacqueline Bourke, head of creative insights for EMEA at iStock, said: “As small businesses navigate lockdown and the impact of Brexit in 2021, it is important they rethink their marketing strategy to capitalise on Millennials’ willingness to support the local economy.

She added: “Similarly, small firms should be thinking about how they can convert Baby Boomers’ goodwill into action, encouraging them to become loyal shoppers.”

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