Breaking Down UK Internet Use in 2020


The advent of the internet has revolutionised life as we know it. In the modern era, most people in the UK not only have access to the internet but rely on it to help them with almost every aspect of their lives. Many of us now use the internet for work, performing everyday tasks, communicating with friends and family, accessing entertainment and more. Statistics show that a whopping 96% of individuals in the UK have access to the internet at home and approximately 76% own a smartphone. The average amount of time UK adults spend looking at their smartphones is over two and a half hours every single day, which is a large chunk of time. The reasons people choose to go online are many and varied, but almost all of us will go online each day.

The most popular online activity today is communication with others. Checking emails is top of the list in the UK, with 85% of people who go online accessing their email accounts. Other forms of popular communication online in the UK include using instant messaging services such as WhatsApp or Skype (71%) and accessing social media accounts (70%). A further 49% of users make video calls over online networks such as Skype or Facetime.

One area the internet has altered irredeemably is consumerism. Today’s consumer is better informed than ever throughout history, with myriad available options for checking product reviews, customer testimonials, product descriptions and more online. In the UK, approximately 81% of people use the internet to find information about products or services before deciding to make a purchase. With consumers being better informed, the onus has been on product and service providers to ensure they offer only the best quality in terms of both goods and customer service.

Gaming is another area that has seen a huge surge in popularity since it became accessible online. Humans have always loved to play games, and the internet opened a wealth of new possibilities both in terms of game development and opportunities to connect with friends while playing. Hugely popular slots games such as Rainbow Riches, multi-player games such as Call of Duty and casual single player games such as Candy Crush have all contributed to increasing the number of online gamers worldwide to an estimated 2.5 billion.

Statistics for gamer demographics may surprise some people. The archetypal gamer is the teenage boy, yet today, women make up more than half of the global online gaming market. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the average age of today’s enthusiastic gamer is around 35. While there is certainly still a huge market for games aimed at teenage boys, it seems that gaming is becoming ubiquitous as a favourite pastime of all ages and genders. The biggest factor that differentiates the age groups is competition – younger gamers tend to enjoy the thrill of competing, whereas the over-40s are more likely to enjoy playing simply for the sake of playing. Female gamers are more likely to log into casual games that they can play frequently but for a short period of time, while men are more likely to get involved in strategy games that require a greater time commitment.

Online casinos have also enjoyed a huge increase in popularity in recent years, with many realising the convenience of playing from home as a benefit. Being able to play online has helped to draw in a larger audience – there are many who may have previously felt intimidated by casinos, or fancied playing the games but without the hassle of travelling to a brick and mortar venue. In the year up to September 2018, a total of £5.6 billion was spent in the UK on online casino gaming. This represents over a third of the total amount of revenue generated by the gaming industry. Online sportsbooks are also bringing in a reasonable amount of money, with many people appreciating being able to place their bets from home rather than visit the bookies. Again, a wider audience is being reached through offering services to those that enjoy having a flutter but perhaps do not want to visit the bookmakers to be able to do so.

The internet is above all a useful tool for communication and the proliferation and popularity of social media networks stands testament to this. In the UK, approximately 96% of those that regularly use the internet will log onto some form of social media at least once per month, with 77% stating active engagement with or contributions to social media. The typical internet user has an average of 7.1 different social media accounts and will spend almost two hours every day on social media. While a small percentage (13%) use social media for work purposes, the majority use it to connect with friends and family. The 25-34 age bracket are the most active on social media, followed by those aged 18-24.

The ecommerce market in the UK is the most advanced in Europe, generating over £688.4 billion in sales in 2018 alone. Almost exactly two-thirds of internet shoppers (66.7%) use their smartphones or mobile devices for shopping online. Even when shopping in person, the majority of the UK population will research what they want to buy online before committing to a purchase. On average, 76% will go online before buying, and in certain industries this figure is even higher. A staggering 95% of people will research online before purchasing electrical equipment or home appliances and 86% will browse online for products for home improvements.

Just over ten years ago, less than a fifth of the UK adult population owned a smartphone, yet today over three-quarters have such a device. Almost two-thirds of people state they now rely on the internet and expect to have access wherever they go, and the average person checks their phone once every 12 minutes while awake. With statistics like this, internet usage has only one way to go, and that is up.