The Evolution of the Internet

How consumers in the UK use technology and its impact on their lives.

In the past decade, the time people spend on the Internet has more than doubled, impacting how consumers search for information, buy products, watch video content, and connect with people and businesses.

Access to the Internet

When broadband was first introduced in the UK in 2000, the maximum speed it reached was 512 kilobits per second (Source - Computerworld, A history of UK broadband roll out). In 2000, only around 25% of households in the UK had access to the Internet. Most of these households connected to the Internet using dial-up, which was even slower. Around 96% of households in the UK currently have Internet access. The average broadband speed is now 64 Mbps, which is more than one hundred times faster than twenty years ago.

Digital devices used by audiences

  1. Smartphone or Mobile Phone
  2. Tablet
  3. Laptop
  4. Desktop Computer

According to the Office of National Statistics, mobile phones and smartphones have become the most frequently used devices to access the Internet, followed by tablets and laptops. The use of desktop computers for accessing the Internet is on a decline compared to portable devices.

How customers search for information

When searching the Internet for information, most people use Search Engines such as Google and Bing to find what they need. Search engines use web robots to crawl millions of pages on the Internet to find the most relevant pages to the search query. Search engines can also help when someone needs to find a specific website but doesn't know its exact URL.

Internet users often turn to YouTube and other video sharing platforms when looking for video content.

Customers often go directly to retailers' websites or online marketplaces, such as Amazon or eBay, to search for a product that they want to buy.

What customers buy online

According to Office's for National Statistics Internet access - households and individuals 2020 report, clothes, shoes, and accessories were the most frequently purchased items online, with about fifty-five per cent of people in Great Britain buying at least one of these items in 2020.The second most frequent online orders in 2020 were tickets to cultural or other events, purchased by around thirty-five per cent of the UK's population.

Almost a third of Brits took advantage of food delivery services in 2020, ordering food from restaurants, fast-food chains, and catering services. Printed books, magazines and newspapers were the fourth most popular items bought on the Internet in Britain in 2020.

Online video consumption

Videos play a significant role in how UK's consumers spend time online. According to Ofcom's Online Nation 2021 report, the amount of time adults spent watching video content on the Internet peaked during the 2020 spring lockdown.

In 2019, Internet users over the age of fifteen spent on average 43 minutes per day watching online videos.This number went up to 48 minutes in 2020 before the spring lockdown began. During the spring lockdown, the number increased to 52 minutes per day.

YouTube reminds the most popular platform for watching user-generated online videos, followed by Facebook and Instagram. TikTok and Snapchat are more popular with a younger audience.
Graph adapted from Ofcom's Online Nation 2020 report.

Consumer trends

  1. Online Shopping
  2. Sending and receiving emails
  3. Finding information about goods or services
  4. Internet Banking

There have been some changes in online trends over the last ten years. In 2010, the most common action performed by Internet users was sending and receiving emails. However, while the percentage of the population who use email has gone up from 69 to 85 per cent, it has been beaten to the first place by online shopping. In 2020, as many as 87 per cent of people in the UK made an online purchase, compared to only 62 per cent ten years before.

Finding information about goods or services is the third most frequent online activity carried out by 81 per cent of Internet users, up from 58 per cent in 2010. Internet banking has seen the most significant increase. In 2010, only around 42 per cent of the UK's population made online banking transactions, compared to 76 per cent in 2020. (Source - Office's for National Statistics Internet access - households and individuals 2020 report).


When it comes to technology, a lot has changed in ten years. Since the Internet became faster and more reliable, information is now easily accessible to almost everyone in the UK, regardless of age, occupation, or level of education.

Love it or hate it, the Internet has proven to be helpful during the lockdown. It provided entertainment by letting consumers watch online videos and connect with friends and family via social media or video calls. In addition, online shopping made accessing food and other essential and non-essential items easier.

Technology is here to stay, and it will keep influencing our day to day lives. For example, voice-controlled devices designed to make our lives easier have been introduced to almost every household in recent years. Now, we don't even need the keyboard to access all the information that is available on the Internet.

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About the author

Michaela Mrockova

Michaela has been working as a web designer and content writer for several years. Michaela will be sharing content marketing and SEO tips on this blog.