Online shopping driving change in travel behaviour05 Dec 2016

Van traffic on the rise as e-commerce takes off

More than 7 in 10 (71%) British adults aged 16-75 say they have shopped online within the last three months.

The average UK household now places around 2.5 online orders per month – the equivalent of roughly 31 per year.1

This level of e-commerce has led in part to a marked decline in the number of journeys being made to the shops by car.

While two thirds (66%) of adults say they use a personal vehicle to go in-store shopping at least once a week, more than one in six adults (17%) are now making less shopping trips in a personal vehicle than a year ago.

Of those making fewer trips:

  • 23% say it is because they now shop more online
  • 22% travel by other means
  • 21% shop less overall
  • 20% can’t afford to shop as much as they used to


The trends are revealed in survey data from Ipsos MORI who were commissioned by the RAC Foundation to investigate online shopping habits.

Two in five adults (41%) say they buy their groceries online at least once a month.

More than four in five (83%) say they have used the internet at least once to buy clothing, footwear, books, CDs or DVDs. Almost four in five adults (79%) say they have bought electronics online, while for household appliances and furniture it is three quarters (74%) of adults.

Of those adults who shop online for these various items: 

  • 23% use click and collect in store for clothing and footwear purchases
  • 17% use click and collect in store for electronic goods
  • 13% use click and collect in store for groceries
  • 11% use click and collect in store for household appliances and furniture
  • 9% use click and collect in store for books, CDs and DVDs


Of those adults who use click and collect methods:

  • 53% say they do so because it allows them to collect items at a convenient time for them
  • 51% say it means they do not have to be at home to receive a delivery
  • 43% say it is cheaper than having items delivered somewhere
  • 40% say it enables them to collect their goods whilst out and about doing other tasks


In 2015 an estimated 33.5 million British adults2 did some or all of their Christmas gift buying online, and one in six adults (17%) say they will buy more presents online this Christmas than they did last year.

Younger adults are more likely to shop online than their older counterparts. 69% of 16-24 year olds shop online at least once a month compared to 52% of those aged 45-54 and 46% aged 55-75.

According to the Department for Transport, van traffic has increased 70% over the past twenty years compared with 17% for all traffic.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“Online shopping hasn’t quite become the norm, but most adults have now given it a go with many using it as the default option.

“The big question is what does this mean for traffic volumes? We know that increases in van traffic have far outpaced the more general growth in vehicle mileage. But why? Is this down to more home deliveries? Or something completely different, perhaps a rise in the number of small businesses that are starting up and are based not in an office but in the driving seat of a van?

“We have commissioned further research to get to the bottom of these questions. This will be published in full in the new year.”



Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation

[email protected] | 020 7747 3445 | 07711 776448 | 020 7389 0601 (ISDN)

Notes to editors:

The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.

The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist. All the Foundation’s work is available at:  

The RAC Foundation commissioned Ipsos MORI to carry out a survey as part of its online omnibus between 28 October and 1 November 2016. A nationally representative quota sample of 2,153 adults aged 16-75 was interviewed. Data have been weighted to the known offline population profile.

Of the 2,153 adults questioned, 2,063 said they shop online. For each category, the following number reported that they ever buy them online:

Groceries – 1,332;

Clothes/Footwear – 1,856;

Books/CDs/DVDs – 1,843;

Toiletries/Cosmetics – 1,513;

Household appliances/Furniture – 1,688;

Electronics – 1,800.

749 adults reported they use click and collect methods – Collection in store or Collection from another collection point – to receive goods ordered online.

371 adults reported that they are making less trips in a personal vehicle to go shopping compared to 12 months ago.

1 This estimate is a calculation done for the RAC Foundation by LCP Consulting who the Foundation has commissioned to carry our research into the growth in van traffic. The rest of the online shopping habit trend data is sourced from Ipsos MORI.

2 Based on Eurostat population estimates and 95% confidence intervals of +/- 2%, we estimate that this is equivalent to 32.5m – 34.3m adults aged 16-75.

The figure for the proportion of British adults aged 16-75 who have shopped online in the last three months comes from an Ipsos MORI face-to-face survey carried out between 15th August and 29th September 2016. A sample of 3,603 adults aged 16-75 was interviewed using a random locale sampling method. Date have been weighted to the known population profile.

Department for Transport road traffic estimates: