UK vs US: 10 ways consumers differ in 2019

We might speak the same language but Brits and Americans don’t always think alike.

Our US vs the UK 2019 consumer trends report found some significant differences in the feelings and beliefs of the two nationalities, which translates into different consumer behaviour.

Here we highlight the 10 most surprising ways we differ and what that means for the approach you take in each country.

Americans are not as environmentally conscious as British people

While more than half of US consumers (58%) agree they are trying to reduce their use of single-use plastic, this figure is nearly 20% higher in the UK. An overwhelming 81% of Brits are actively trying to cut back on plastic. A further 76% say they care about the negative environmental impact of producing cheap, throwaway products and clothing, but in the US that figure is 14% lower (62%).

Takeaway: brands appealing to Brits can capitalise on consumers’ strong social conscience, but in the US they’ll need to work harder at inspiring concern.

British people are much more likely to be vegetarian or vegan

There are more than twice as many vegetarians and vegans in the UK than in America. In the States only 7% of people don’t consume meat, while that figure is 17% in Britain. The difference can also be seen in the number of people thinking about adopting a meat-free diet in each country (8% in the US and 20% in the UK).

Takeaway: changing attitudes to meat eating in the UK means that there is more of an opportunity to promote plant-based foods with Brits than there is in the US.

UK Millennials are more worried about their mental health

In Britain there is massive concern over mental health among Millennials; 72% agree they regularly worry about it. But their US counterparts are 15% less likely to feel the same way, with just 57% admitting to mental health worries.

Takeaway: mental wellbeing is a theme brands can really embrace in the UK to win respect from a Millennial audience.

Older Americans find life admin more stressful

Americans aged over 55 are more stressed out by admin than their UK counterparts – 62% agree it stresses them out, but in the UK this figure is 21% lower. Only 41% of British Boomers fret over life admin, while it’s the Millennials who are most frustrated by their responsibilities (70.5%).

Takeaway: focusing on simplicity when targeting older consumers with services is a good idea for brands in the States, but a different message might chime more with UK Boomers.

Americans are more guarded about sharing personal information

While an equal number of Brits and Americans will share their data if they know what it will be used for (45%), the US has more consumers simply not willing to share their information. A significant 34.5% will not share data vs 26% in the UK (a difference of 8.5%).

Takeaway: Americans may require more detailed information about your brand’s data policy in order to feel comfortable opting in.

Brits are more open to getting things done online

UK consumers show open-mindedness to taking some professional and personal interactions online – 44% would be happy to have a doctor’s appointment and 43% think it’s fine to have an online job interview. But US consumers are a little less enthusiastic, with only 31% up for virtual medical appointments and 36% happy to be interviewed. And when it comes to the prospect of having a first date online, only 8% of Americans would do this vs 19% of Brits.

Takeaway: brands must be alert to greater consumer reticence when making virtual services available in the US.

Americans prefer to eat out on a Friday night, while Brits prefer to get a takeaway

The favourite Friday night activity of both nationalities is staying in to watch the TV but, after that, Americans like to go out for a meal (16.5%), while British people prefer to get a takeaway instead (14%). Going to the cinema is the third most popular activity in the US (9%) but this is only sixth favourite in the UK (coming behind eating out, having a relaxing bath and going to the pub).

Takeaway: food brands can focus on eating in or taking out depending on which audience they’re talking to.

More British people find social media depressing

Nearly half of Brits say they find social media depressing (48%) but in the US, only 30% of people feel this way. The strength of the UK figure indicates this is a problem worth brands addressing in Britain, especially if targeting Millennials, 57% of whom agree social media can make them feel blue.

Takeaway: Brands should continue to track consumer sentiment towards social media to make sure they’re capitalising on the most important issues at the correct times.

UK Millennials worry more about looking older  

The demographic most worried about looking older in the UK is the Millennials; 41% agree they worry about the visible signs of aging. In the US, though, those aged 25-39 are a lot less bothered. Only 23% fret about wrinkles and grey hairs (a difference of 18%).

Takeaway: Beauty brands that lead with messaging around early signs of ageing could be viewed as unnecessarily negative by US Millennials.

The pressure to have children is higher in America

While attitudes to marriage are becoming more relaxed in both America and Britain, an expectation to start a family remains. This is more keenly felt in the US, where only 22% of people think there is less pressure to have children than there used to be. In the UK this figure is 13% higher (35%) indicating more liberal views.

Takeaway: Brands marketing in the US may want to go stronger on traditional family values.  

Want to see more differences between British and American consumers? Click below to read the full report:

Bel Booker

Senior Content Writer 

Bel has a background in newspaper and magazine journalism but loves to geek-out with Attest consumer data to write in-depth reports. Inherently nosy, she's endlessly excited to pose questions to Attest's audience of 125 million global consumers. She also likes cake.

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