Consumers may be nervous at the moment but they’re not holding back from spending online. How so? Well, UK e-sales continued their upwards trajectory in the run-up to and after the Brexit vote to give a17% monthly rise, according to the IMRG Capgemini eRetail Sales Index.
That came after an “extremely strong” May with retailers seeing the best year-on-year growth in just under a year.
Fashion continued to prove the soothsayers of a decade ago wrong with a powerful performance (do you remember when analysts were questioning why anyone would ever want to buy clothes and shoes online, as if decades of mail-order fashion retail had never existed?)
Weirdly though, health and beauty sales fell 5%. Maybe last year we were all buying sun cream and insect repellent?
Mobile, mobile, mobile
Anyway, one interesting point is that mobile was the standout winner. And when I say mobile, I mean smartphones. Many indexes put tablet and smartphone sales together and it can be hard to get a true picture of how people are buying between the two – are they spending on their tablets while on the sofa in the evening or on their smartphones while on the train?
Well, this index does split the two out and the answer appears to be option two: the smartphone is king. Although, as always, that comes with plenty of caveats.
Growth in sales via tablets slowed to a barely-noticeable 0.4% (the lowest since the index started in 2013), while smartphone sales surged 69%, but it doesn’t mean we’ve all abandoned out tablets. Sales of such devices may be slowing but they’re still a huge category and many people still use them to browse online when at home instead of using a laptop or desktop computer.
But smartphone shopping is a ‘younger’ habit. Until recently retailer websites weren’t that user-friendly when it came to shopping-via-phone. Retailers have only really focused on smartphones apps relatively recently and consumers uptake of larger, more sophisticated smartphone sis still a fairly new phenomenon, so it’s no surprise that growth is faster in this area.
The shop in your pocket
That said, it’s clear that smartphone shopping growth isn’t just a case of it playing catch-up and that shopping via that indispensable device in your pocket really is the future.
Only a few days ago I realised that (as if I hadn’t known before) when trying to buy a skirt. I tried on a size 8 in two branches of Jigsaw and in John Lewis and it came up huge. I managed to find the last size 6 at John Lewis online while walking down Oxford Street on my home and picked it up in Waitrose the next day. Score one for smartphone shopping!
The Brexit question
But while it might be clear that smartphones are the future of shopping what’s less clear from IMRG’s latest figures is whether Brexit fallout will hurt online shopping in the future.
The average basket value of goods bought online in June rose from £75.11 last year to £80.34 this time. But given that the Brexit vote was late in the month, we don’t really know whether that increased spend will continue.
Tina Spooner, chief information officer at IMRG, said: “While the index results reveal a strong performance during June, it is too early to say whether the Brexit vote will have any long-term impact on the UK’s online retail sector.
“However, early signs from a recent IMRG poll of retailers found that around two-thirds of online merchants saw a slowdown in sales in the few days after the EU referendum, with most reporting sales appearing to recover to normal levels again afterwards.”
Capgemini management consultant Bhavesh Unadkat said the figures don’t capture the entire Brexit fallout, and the full impact of the referendum is something that will take a few months to work through.