The world of e-shopping is now global and it’s also mobile. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the British Retail Consortium and Google looking at the last quarter of 2015. In fact, UK retailers are benefitting from a surge in international shoppers browsing their sites on their smartphones in particular.
BRC chief Helen Dickinson summed it up: “The final quarter of the year was very much a digital one. The internet played a vital role in driving sales for UK retailers, and, as has been the case for some time now, mobile devices were key to this.”
In the UK itself over the Christmas period, over half of searches were conducted via mobile devices during peak periods. But what’s really interesting is how many global shoppers were browsing cross-border via their smartphones.
While the research focused on the UK, it must be assumed that the trend is also being seen by retailers from other countries with a global profile and that’s likely to be driving the opening of dedicated local sites. For instance, M&S launched Australian and New Zealand local websites last week as a response to the fact that its UK site was getting a huge amount of traffic from southern hemisphere customers. And many US e-stores are very globally-focused too with more local sites opening.
But back with this report, so which global groups are looking at UK sites? Well UK shopping is increasingly popular among Indians (smartphone searches up 39% but tablet searches down 23%), as well as Brazilians (phone searches up 13%, tablet searches down 23%), and Russians (despite increasing political tensions between the UK and Russia, smartphone searches rose 35% but tablet searches dropped 28%).
Search volumes also grew in Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, Spain, Hungary, Argentina, Germany, the Netherlands and the US. But Japanese searches via both phones and tablets fell.
And what are they buying (or at least browsing for)? The biggest spike in searches was enjoyed by beauty, followed by fashion (up 51% and 41, respectively), then leisure (up 37%), and department stores (33%). All of those categories saw tablet volumes declining but not by as much as smartphone searches grew.
By individual item, shoppers searched for Christmas jumpers (interesting given the much-talked-about fall in popularity for them last year), Halloween costumes and make-up, wedding dresses, engagement rings, and fragrance.
It’s undeniable that larger-screen phones have helped this shopping revolution as devices like the bigger Samsung Galaxies and iPhone 6’s have made shopping a less squint-inducing experience than it used to be. So where does all this leave tablets? Well, not out in the cold, of course. Tablet sales growth may have slowed but the category is still important – and low-priced versions like the Amazon Kindle mean man more people now own one.
But while they’re technically ‘mobile’, many consumers don’t seem to see them as such. Instead they’re using them as laptop replacements to use at home. Which means out-and-about browsing, for many, is a smartphone-only activity, as an Episerver report I covered last week showed.
And the future? More of the same it seems. In the absence of any game-changing devices (no, I’m not including smartwatches because I’m still not convinced their impact on shopping just yet will be for anything more than contactless payments), it looks like 2016 will be all about smartphones.