Consumers are switching to online shopping at a “phenomenal” rate during the coronavirus lockdown, new research has revealed.

Four in 10 people said they are now doing more shopping through digital channels in order to avoid shops during the pandemic, up from 16% just two weeks ago.

One-third of shoppers said they are now buying products online they had previously purchased exclusively in physical stores.

But according to research from Retail Economics and law firm Squire Patton Boggs, consumers are often having trouble completing online orders.

A third of respondents said they had experienced technical issues on retailers’ websites and could not purchase what they needed as a result. A further 11% said they found the online shopping experience “frustrating” but were ultimately able to buy what they needed.

Grocery retailers have struggled to cope with the increased demand for online orders. Ocado admitted this week it could not meet “unprecedented demand” for its services as it does not have the capacity to deal with order numbers that had surged to “10 times higher” than normal levels.

Those shopping for food online at other retailers, including  Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda, are having to wait longer than usual for orders to be delivered to their doors.

Meanwhile, a number of non-food retailers, including Next, TK Maxx and The Perfume Shop, have ceased trading online during the pandemic. Unions are putting pressure on other businesses such as Asos and Boohoo to follow suit.

Although such moves were driven by the need to protect their staff, demand for discretionary items like clothing and perfume also appears to be falling.

According to the Retail Economics data, 72% of people said they were shunning spending on items such as apparel, electricals and homewares during the lockdown.

The reining in of such spending is seemingly being driven by the collapse of consumer confidence. More than half of consumers surveyed (56%) said they are worried about their personal finances and have little to no savings – 29% said that they have no savings or are in debt.

Retail Economics chief executive Richard Lim said: “Fears about the impact of the virus has knocked consumer confidence for six. The impact on jobs, the economy and the health of the nation has shifted consumers into a survival mindset, focusing on essentials and shunning discretionary purchases – particularly clothing, homewares and electricals.

“With the lockdown coming into force and only essential retail operators open for business across high streets, the shift towards online shopping has been phenomenal. It has opened up new shopping experiences for many who have previously only shopped for certain products in-store, and it will be interesting to see if this shift in behaviour sticks when we transition to more normal times.”