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EDITORIAL Mobile and cross-border defined 2020 and will carry 2021

UK SME retailers are going global

UK SME retailers are going global

In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we find that the two major trends from 2020 that are likely to continue across 2021 are that UK ecommerce is now more mobile than ever and that it is increasingly tapping into cross-border opportunities.

The latest research from App Annie finds that mobile commerce in the UK grew by a staggering 30% last year as more shoppers turned to their devices to shop (along with doing everything else via smartphone). The clear winners were Amazon and Tesco, finds the study, but it also highlighted the fact that using mobile has also thrown up some new opportunities too.

Food – both grocery delivery and take-out – have been the obvious beneficiaries as locked in shoppers still need to eat. This has seen Tesco thrive, growing its online grocery business by 150% last year.

It has also proved a boon for anyone connected with food and drink, with apps dealing in such victuals clocking up an estimated 128 billion sessions, 55% more than in 2019. Alongside gaming, these are among the most used apps out there.

And these apps have created new opportunities for retailers. The likes of Morrison’s have already enacted well-publicised joint-venture with the likes of Deliveroo, to combine speedy home delivery of take-away-like food and vital items. There is likely to be way more of this in 2021.

Gaming too has started to impact retail, with more retailers looking at how to use gamification to drive engagement, as well as using games – one of the most popular content types on mobile right now – as the key place to advertise.

With interactive messaging services such as RCS coming down the pipe, expect to  see a raft of clever ways in which retailers are using other channels to market and sell to shoppers.

The other big trend has been for cross-border sales. According to the latest research from IMRG, the UK’s industry association for online retail and leading cross-border ecommerce solutions provider Global-e, there was an overall 57% year-on-year (YoY) increase in outbound ecommerce sales from the UK in 2020, with the peak holiday trading period in November experiencing a 42% YoY like-for-like surge in international cross-border online sales compared to the same time last year.

What was surprising was that EU shoppers buying for the UK actually went up more than that of those from outside the UK. Perhaps one last hoorah before Brexit came into force on 1 January or perhaps the start of an unofficial love affair with UK goods by rebellious Euro-shoppers, only time will tell.

The fact that non-EU cross border sales were also up is likely to be more indicative of what 2021 has in store, with the UK government already sealing free trade deals with Canada and Japan and with moves afoot to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), an agreement between 11 countries around the Pacific Rim including Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore and Vietnam, now underway, selling into new markets overseas is clearly something that UK retail is ready to build upon.

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