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Mobile and voice tech drive up online retail to detriment of High Street

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Despite it reportedly being another difficult month for sales and footfall on the high street, UK online retail sales went from strength to strength in April, with use of smartphones, wearables and in-home smart assistants becoming part of everyday life, according to the latest figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index.

While online sales were up +18.8% year-on-year (YoY), there was a fall in the overall market conversion rate (down 4.15% from 4.3% YoY) marking the fifth consecutive decline this year. This is likely to be due to the increasing penetration of sales made through smartphones, which have lower conversion rates generally.

Meanwhile average basket values (ABV) increased – jumping £14 (month on month) to £117.12 for Multichannel retailers, and by £3.5 to £87.16 for online-only.

April featured the first really warm weather of the year, which may have had an impact on almost all sectors seeing growth in April. In Clothing sales increased +15.6% YoY, and the Garden sector also grew by +12.0%. Comparatively, a weaker month for Home (decreased by -15.6% YoY) brought the overall Home and Garden sector increase to 4.6% versus last year.

“What has been very apparent is that it is online retail that is benefiting, while the high street is facing a sustained downturn,” says Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG. “Up until now, there have been multiple reasons to suspect that this split in performance may have been influenced by various external – and therefore temporary – factors; the above-average rainfall in January, the snow in February / March, Easter being early this year. The fact that April 2018 is comparing against an April last year that included Easter – with the boost to retail that it typically brings – suggests that this is not a blip. As shoppers have started to find themselves with a bit more disposable income in 2018, we are possibly witnessing an acceleration in the shift of shopper behaviour over to online.”   

Bhavesh Unadkat, principal consultant in retail customer engagement, Capgemini adds: “This links to a bigger picture as consumers are adopting more technology as part of their everyday life; voice assisted technology is primary driver of smart technology in the home, wearable technology such as health and fitness devices in increasing in popularity, and further innovations in home security and entertainment give a taste of upcoming trends in 2018.

“While retailers benefit from the sales performances it also serves as a reminder that as the integration of technology gathers pace for the consumer it challenges retailers to reflect this in their own customer experiences.”

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