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UK retail ecommerce sales are expected to top £60 billion ($99 billion) in 2015, helped by a strengthening economy and impressive growth in smartphone-based buying. From a global perspective, the UK will remain the world leader when it comes to retail ecommerce’s share of total retail sales, according to a new eMarketer report, “UK Retail Ecommerce 2015: Smartphone Shoppers Driving Sales Growth.”
Most retail purchases are still made in physical stores in the UK—85.6% of total retail sales will be conducted this way in 2015, eMarketer estimates—but the fact remains that retail ecommerce is seeing good traction. And even when digital channels aren’t used to make purchases, they very often play at least some role in the purchase decision.
A Deloitte report published in January 2015 suggested that digital devices influenced one-third of in-store retail sales in the UK last year, equating to a retail value of almost £100 billion ($165 billion).
Linking the worlds of physical and digital commerce is thus becoming increasingly important. One shopping trend that helps validate this view is the rising popularity in the UK of click-and-collect services that allow for digital purchases to be picked up by the customer at a physical collection point, usually in-store. According to January 2015 polling by the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) and eDigitalResearch, 73% of UK digital buyers had used click-and-collect services. Of that number, 75% said they were very satisfied with the experience.
January 2015 polling by eDigitalResearch indicated that UK consumers were keen to advance their digital purchase and fulfillment behaviors even further. The study found that a third of UK digital buyers would be willing to opt for delivery by aerial drones, particularly for small items like books and DVDs, albeit with an underlying perception that these types of services won’t “get off the ground.”
UK shoppers are often at the forefront of digital retail behaviors—for many, shopping in-store is just one possible destination on their purchase path. For example, December 2014 research for the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) found that many UK mobile users weren’t especially likely to complete their path to purchase in-store—only 25% of those queried said a physical store was their primary completion site, vs. 37% who said their laptop typically was.
While in-store remains important, a conjoined experience across physical and digital looks to be as crucial. “I no longer think about what I can buy online and what I can buy physically: It’s all about the same experience,” said Mark Brennan, head of mobile at Manning Gottlieb OMD. “This explains why you’ve got the likes of Amazon, having gone from being a pure play digital commerce platform to opening their own store. They recognize that there are certain things that just aren’t as strong as the high street.”
eMarketer corporate subscription clients can view the full report here.
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