Google and BRC research reveals online retail growth – and importance of a mobile platform for retailers

Consumers take to shopping on smartphones

New research from the British Retail Council and Google has revealed significant growth in the number of consumers using smartphones and tablets while shopping online.

Total retail search volumes grew by 29 per cent in Q1 2011 compared like-for-like with the same quarter in 2010. Mobile retail search traffic outpaced overall growth, rising by 181 per cent over the period. Mobile searches made up 11 per cent of the overall retail searches in 2011 Q1.

Multi-channel retailers – those with physical and internet-based stores – saw retail searches grow the fastest, a rise of 42 per cent year-on-year, compared with a rise of 19 per cent for online-only retailers. 

"Online is the fastest growing part of retailing,” said BRC director general Stephen Robertson. “We need to better understand that development and what’s driving it. Despite any short-term effects from weakening consumer confidence, what stands out here is the fundamental strength of the growth of online retailing. A 29 per cent increase in retail searches in a year is a huge increase in potential shoppers.

“The star performer is mobile. A three-fold increase reveals customers are taking to smartphone and tablet shopping very rapidly. The rise of mobile use to one in ten searches sends a valuable message to any forward-thinking retailer that doesn’t yet have an m-commerce platform. The figures show, British retailers are very good at selling online and winning business from all parts of the world. What we need from politicians, UK and European, is a regulatory environment that helps that develop further."

Google retail director Peter Fitzgerald added: "The launch of the Online Retail Monitor (ORM) marks a big step in understanding online consumer behaviour across retail categories. The report provides key insights into some important online trends, including the most popular products consumers are searching for and the varied rates at which multi-channel and pureplay retailers are growing online. We hope that it will provide retailers with an up to date snapshot of the ever-changing digital retail marketplace."

Other findings made include a 27 per cent rise in overseas consumers searching for UK retailers in Q1 2011 compared with Q1 2010. Central and Greater London were the source of 46 per cent of total retail searches.

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