The online shopping revolution has officially become mainstream among the once tech-resistant generation aged 65 and over, with more than half now saying they shop online.
A report by the Office for National Statistics found four in five Britons said they shopped online, up from three-quarters last year. This year also marks a generational milestone, with more than half of people aged 65 and above (54%) saying they shop online.
Shoppers from the 25-34 age group most commonly made 11 or more purchases in the three-month survey period. The over-65s were not such prolific online spenders, typically making three to five purchases.
Among all shoppers, 44% spent between £100 and £499 online over the three months. The highest-spending 15% made online purchases of more than £1,000, while 9% limited their spending to less than £50.
The most popular products purchased online were clothes or sports goods, followed by household goods and tickets for events.
The rise in online shopping highlights the pressure that continues to mount on Britain’s high streets. New figures show the number of empty shops in town centres has hit a four-year high, with more than one in 10 stores now vacant, according to the British Retail Consortium. Footfall – shopper numbers – also fell by 1.9% last month, the worst July in seven years.
The ONS said 93% of households in the UK now had internet access, up from 70% a decade ago. However, not everyone is convinced of the merits of the digital revolution. Among the 7% of households without internet access, 61% said they felt they did not need it. A third cited privacy or security concerns for not going online, a dramatic increase on the 7% who raised the issue when the ONS last asked the survey question.
In recent years there have been a number of high profile data and privacy breaches, most notably relating to Facebook, which has put internet safety under the spotlight.
Last month, the UK competition watchdog announced a probe into the online advertising market, dominated by Google and Facebook, to look at whether “consumers are able and willing to control how data about them is used and collected”.
The ONS report found the traditional phone call was facing a challenge, with the proportion of Britons using apps such as FaceTime, WhatsApp and Skype to make a voice or video call more than trebling over the last decade.
The ONS research found the use of internet-based communications services has hit a milestone, with half the UK adult population choosing to contact friends and family with voice or video calls this way, up from just 16% in 2009.
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The significant increase in the use of apps such as Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp, the latter two owned by social media giant Facebook, is reflected in a surge in mobile phone data usage. Last month, media regulator Ofcom reported that the amount of data mobile users chewed through each month surged by a quarter to 3GB in 2018. In 2012, that average was a mere 0.2GB per month.
While the traditional mobile call shows no signs of losing its appeal – the amount of time Britons spent talking on their phones rose 5% to 161bn minutes last year – the rise of social media apps continues to hurt the old fashioned text message. Between 2012 and 2018 the number of text messages sent annually has more than halved from 150bn to 73bn, according to Ofcom.
The rise of the smart phone and, more recently, communications apps is hastening the slow obsolescence of using the traditional landline, which has seen the number of minutes of calls made halve in recent years.