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‘Brand Britain’ is becoming a big draw for global shoppers, reports the BRC-Google Online Retail Monitor.

OVERSEAS INTEREST in UK retailers is up at 23% year-on-year from 16% in Q2 of 2013, according to the BRC-Google Online Retail Monitor for Q3 of 2013. Our home-grown clothing brands and department stores are driving a lot of this growth followed by beauty retailers, and this is consistent with the international interest in UK luxury retailers that Google has observed.

The most popular sectors overseas consumers searched for using their smartphone devices were Clothing and Department Stores while Department Stores and Health and Beauty reported the highest growth rates on tablet devices for overseas consumers searching UK retailers.

A number of countries demonstrated considerable rates of growth in UK retail product searches with the Russian Federation leading the charge with a 54% growth rate. The Netherlands (50%), South Korea (39%), France (36%), Germany (33%) and Argentina (32%), follow.

Argentina and the Russian Federation reported significant rates of growth on smartphone devices searching for UK retailers as well, with a year-on-year percentage change in Q3 at over 230%. Searches from consumers using tablet devices in France and the Netherlands meanwhile reported over 130% growth in July – September.

While overseas shoppers are looking for UK retailers, UK consumers are increasingly searching for products from overseas retailers. Growth in the third quarter of 2013 is up 33% compared with the same period last year but down from 51% in Q2 2013.

“These figures highlight the strong foothold that UK retailers have on the international stage, and the major potential for further growth,” comments Helen Dickinson, Director General, British Retail Consortium. “The growth in global customers searching for UK retailers online is up by an impressive 23% on the previous year and shows how the quality, range and accompanying service offered by ‘Brand Britain’ is something respected around the world. For the first time, we can also see which areas of UK retail rank most highly in these overseas searches, with clothing, beauty and department stores making up the top three.

“Closer to home, the data on category searches also chime closely with the trends revealed in our sales figures during this quarter. Many customers were searching for good deals on new technology releases, gadgets and games, mirroring the strong sales performance for these items in recent months. “We’re again seeing strong growth for searches on tablets and smartphones, showing that these are playing an increasingly integral role in the customer journey. Retailers are continuing to invest significantly in their multichannel offer, so that they can provide customers fast and user-friendly ways to browse and buy whether in-store, at home or on the move.”

Peter Fitzgerald, Retail Director, Google, comments: “The glorious summer weather that extended into July at times proved tough for online trading, as customers opted to enjoy the sunshine. However, the last two months of the quarter saw a drop in temperatures and led to overall queries growing at 12% in the third quarter. Again the DIY and gardening sectors were able to take advantage of the weather, with ‘garden furniture’ one of the most popular retail searches this quarter.”

The BRC-Google Online Retail Monitor measures changes and trends in the growth of retail search terms over time. Every time someone goes online and Googles a retail product, that search is counted towards totals for the month and the quarter. For each search query Google assesses how likely it is to be a retail search, based on the history of previous searches for that term, then weights it accordingly. Thus total retail search volumes grew 12% in the third quarter of 2013 compared with the same quarter a year earlier.

Total retail search volumes growth was highest in the DIY/Gardening, Homewares, Food and Drink and Footwear sectors with DIY/ Gardening and Homewares being the fastest growing sectors on smartphone and tablet devices as well. Tablet devices outpaced search volumes from any other device, including smartphone retail searches in every retail sector, increasing 100% compared with growth on smartphone devices of 58%. Search volumes on desktops continues to decline in many sectors, with Clothing, Leisure Goods, Health & Beauty and Consumer Electronics all reporting doubledigit falls. Overall, desktops saw a 10% decline in search volumes.

The top retail search terms during July to September included beds, dresses, engagement rings, ipad , ps4, fifa 14, grand According to Google, $4bn worth of UK ecommerce is export and this is growing. In fact, it is on track to hit £20bn by 2020, “because the internet is borderless and Eastern Europe, Africa, China and South America are all becoming markets that we can exploit,” Peter Fitzgerald told delegates at the Internet Retailing Conference in October. But one up shot of the boom in consumer spending in ‘new’ economies is that often, in the absence of a fully developed domestic internet infrastructure, consumers have to hit your website via mobile. This can be problematic to many retailers. Not only does it make making your site mobile optimised an even greater imperative, but also it means that in doing so you have to make it optimised to service an international audience.

Ray Fowler from Ernst & Young advises retailers looking to overseas shoppers to “get out from your office and go to the country or countries you are looking at and actually try and buy your own products via mobile from there. That’ll at least give you an insight into initial problems,” he says.

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