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Mobile and the Rise of the Frictionless UK Shopper

Mobile's role in the retail ecommerce landscape continues to grow

March 20, 2015 | Retail & Ecommerce

The UK continues to lead globally when it comes to digital shoppers, buyers and ecommerce as a proportion of total retail sales. Mobile’s role in UK ecommerce is also well advanced. But more than merely facilitating commerce via search, showrooming and the like, mobile devices are becoming increasingly common as the means for making retail transactions, according to a new eMarketer report, “UK Retail Mcommerce Trends: Mobile Fast Becoming the Digital Transaction Destination.”

UK Internet Users, by Platform and Age, Aug 2014 (% of total)

That mobile has taken its place in the UK’s commerce “ecosystem” is undeniable, but it should be considered just one part of UK consumers’ increasingly multiplatform approach to shopping. After all, even among the most mobile of digital cohorts in the country, mobile-only use is comparatively very low.

According to August 2014 comScore data, the vast majority of UK internet users across all age ranges utilized both PCs and smartphones/tablets for their digital activities. Even young millennials ages 18 to 24 were far more likely to be cross-device internet users—79%, vs. just 11% who were smartphone-/tablet-only users.

When it comes to shopping more specifically, the pattern persists across the wider population. In terms of unique UK retail site visitors, comScore found that cross-platform users were far more prevalent (22.1 million) than PC-only (16.2 million) or mobile-only visitors (7.4 million) in July 2014.

UK Retail Site Unique Visitors, by Platform, July 2014 (millions)

Other research also points toward digital—and particularly mobile—having an ever-greater impact on physical store shopping. A recent Deloitte report 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 ($164.66 billion).

Research from xAd and Telmetrics conducted by Nielsen, meanwhile, illustrated just how integral mobile search was in many consumer purchase decisions. It found that among UK mobile users, 64% had made a purchase or transaction related to mobile search in the 30 days prior to polling in March 2014. A further 19% said they planned to in the near future.

Here again, though, the idea of the smartphone as a device for transacting came to the fore. When asked how retail purchases related to a mobile search were completed, 40% of smartphone users said they completed the purchase in-store. However, completion via the mobile device came only 4 percentage points behind, cited by 36% of respondents.

A recent announcement from UK department store chain John Lewis, though, put into context the important role that the physical store still plays in the consumer retail journey. Rather than being swayed by a wave of mobile stats pointing to a less essential high street, it recently announced that it would increase the number of its physical locations by about 50%. While this may appear to fly in the face of current data-fueled wisdom, it also plays to the idea of the frictionless shopper. Consumers are becoming less concerned about how and where they make their purchases; rather, they just want options and, ultimately, convenience.

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “UK Retail Mcommerce Trends: Mobile Fast Becoming the Digital Transaction Destination.”

This report answers these key questions:

  • How advanced is the retail mcommerce landscape in the UK?
  • What do 2014 holiday season statistics tell us about mcommerce trends, and what might future behaviors look like?
  • What will mobile’s role be in the wider commerce picture in the UK in the coming years?

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