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BRC-Google search survey shows m-commerce boom across UK, helped by traffic from Germany and Estonia

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Ecommerce search volumes in the UK are on the up, driven by rapidly expanding mobile shopping habits among consumers – especially overseas shoppers in Germany and Estonia looking to ‘buy British’.

That is the upshot of the latest BRC-Google Online Retail monitor, which shows that across the UK retail search volumes grew 7% across all devices in the first quarter of 2017 compared with the same quarter a year ago, but that searches from phones is up 23% over the same period.

The South West saw the fastest growth in search volumes at 23% compared with the same quarter a year ago, whilst Northern Ireland and Wales both grew by 19%. In contrast London saw a decline of 8% on Q1 2016.

Apparel was the most searched for sector by overseas consumers on smartphone devices, reporting growth of 52% in Q1 2017, while department stores were also a popular sector for overseas consumers on smartphone devices, increasing 50% in Q1 2017.

Estonia demonstrated the strongest appetite for UK retailers from the EU, reporting an 84% increase on smartphone devices in the first quarter of 2017.

According to Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive, British Retail Consortium : “This points to the significance of retailers tailoring their online offering to suit both traditional browsing and mobile platforms in order to satisfy shoppers. Smartphone-ready sites and quick loading times are essential to holding customers’ attention and converting searches into sales.”

Martijn Bertisen, Retail Director, Google , adds: “Smartphone growth shows no sign of slowing down, with retail searches from mobile devices up 23% year-over-year, seven percentage points higher than last quarter.

“Looking overseas, the EU continues to fuel growth in demand for UK brands. In particular, Eastern European nations like Estonia and Romania showed growth of more than 70% year-over-year from smartphones.

“Closer to home, we saw a slowdown in retail-related searches from Greater London, however there was an increasing appetite from the rest of the country, particularly on mobile. This highlights the importance of thinking local, we have seen up to 40% of searches on Google have local intent, as consumers are more likely to research their purchases online before visiting a store.”

But the explosion in mobile searches – and the mobile shopping that it leads to – comes with a caveat. As more people shop from their phones, customer attention spans are shrinking, and retailers are not helped by small screens and slow connection speeds. Once a customer is shopping on mobile, the experience must be relevant and served to them quickly.

“While it is clear that many retailers are working hard at delivering a quality mobile shopping experience, there is still room for improvement,” warns Craig Smith VP of Solutions & Customer Success at Amplience . “All too familiar responsive designs may have a lower total cost of ownership, but often deliver a compromised experience on mobile. They are often slower to load and don’t display the content as beautifully as you need for maximum yield on traffic. The most popular applications on mobile are all designed for mobile first – not compromised. You’re not going to get that highly engaging Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram like experience by serving content that is not relevant but simply shoehorned from a desktop screen with wifi to fit on a mobile display using a mobile network.”

Smith continues: “Mobile retailing must target the user with personalised content that is relevant to them. A person’s mobile phone is their most intimate piece of technology. It’s how they talk to their friends and family and engage with social media. Yet, more often than not, when they load a retailer’s homepage they are greeted with generic content, product offers and suggestions that don’t click with them. Relevant content drives sales and content personalisation on mobile should be a top priority for UK retailers.”

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