Claims that millions of consumers would abandon the high street for good as a result of the the pandemic have, perhaps unsurprisingly, turned out to be bunkum, with a new study showing consumers are expecting to spend, spend, spend now restrictions are being lifted and all adults are vaccinated.
According to new research from HubSpot, UK consumers are set to spend £10.2bn a month on ‘human touch’ experiences this summer.
The study reveals that almost half (46%) of UK consumers are prepared to up their monthly expenditure to prioritise seeing people and making up for lost time. Almost a third (32%) say they are prepared to cut back on other things to enjoy the new freedoms over the summer, while exactly the same proportion (32%) say they have saved money during the pandemic and have more to spend.
These findings reveal the widespread impact that self-isolation has had on consumer attitudes, the study insists. After a year in which they have been denied in-person interactions due to lockdown restrictions, over half (52%) want to shop in person again compared to a fifth (22%) who would rather keep brand interactions while shopping virtual.
Some 28% of UK consumers are expecting to spend the most money indulging in retail therapy, with 32% reporting that they have missed human interaction while shopping online during lockdown.
Where they are planning to spend is also varied, offering a much-needed boost to the UK economy this summer. When asked what they would spend their money on, the highest proportion (33%) said they are planning on spending their money dining out, while the second and third most-popular choices were a break to the seaside (20%) and sporting and music events (15%).
UK consumers are making buying decisions depending on whether they can speak to a real person if they have a question. Nearly a third (30%) stated this to be an important factor when deciding which brand to buy from. In fact, businesses risk losing 16% of sales if they do not provide the opportunity for customers to speak to someone about their questions before they buy, the study claims.
When asked what makes a brand appear to have more of a ‘human touch’, over half (52%) say friendly staff, 42% agreed that it is having staff that are easy to get hold of, while 19% say this is down to brands having a human story around how the business was founded.
Beyond quality (57%), consumers also stated human values like honesty and integrity (46%) and trust (41%) to be important brand values in a company they wish to engage with.
To ensure success and realise the spending potential this summer, brands will need to be mindful about reading the room when it comes to the type of experience consumers are willing to accept. While 82% are comfortable with one-to-one interaction, worries about physical contact and large groups remain.
Nearly three in five (59%) consumers say they will be more cautious about physical touch of any form than pre-pandemic, while half (49%) say they feel uncomfortable engaging in activities that involve groups of more than seven people and 29% are uncomfortable in groups of up to six.
Large events are still off the table for a majority of UK consumers, with nearly three-quarters (72%) feeling uncomfortable about engaging in activities that involve groups of 51-200 people and a similar number (74%) unwilling to go to large scale events with over a thousand attendees.
These results show that brands will need to pay close attention to what their customers feel comfortable with. At least initially, brands need to focus on smaller, personal interactions and keep large events on ice.
HubSpot senior vice-president and managing director EMEA Christian Kinnear said: “It is clear that UK consumers are ready and raring to not only get back to normal life, but to make up for lost time with friends and family, getting away on holiday or engaging in some well earned retail therapy.
“Key to this rebound will be ensuring consumers have the ability to engage with a brand in a human way. While the pandemic forced everyone online, the re-opening will be about balancing digital services with the human touch we’ve all been craving.
“Businesses should not underestimate the value of their customer service teams and sales people in helping them make the most of the summer spending boom. Now is not the time to cut back on a businesses’ finest asset – its people.”
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