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More than 50% of UK adults now shop online

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More than half of British adults now shop online, a new study has found.

The first British Population Survey/IMRG Online Access and Shopping Report found that more than 51% of the British population aged 15 and above, had shopped online in the first three months of 2010.

The detailed study is based on more than 80,000 face-to-face interviews and found the proportion of the population shopping online reached 50.6% in February 2010, and climbed to 51% in March. In the last two years alone, 3.7 million UK adults became online shoppers.

The growth came as the proportion of the population with access to the internet grew to 75.99% in March, from 73.92% in December 2009. The report also found more people who search for product information are now likely to shop online. Eighteen out of every 20 searchers would also make a purchase over the internet in March 2010, up from 17 out of every 20 searchers in March 2008.

IMRG chief executive James Roper says the report provides “vital new insight” into online consumers and the factors that have resulted in a 6,000% growth of e-retail since the dotcom bubble burst at the turn of the millennium.

“This huge growth,” he said, “is due almost entirely to consumers’ eagerness to embrace the convenience, choice and savings that e-retail offers them.”

The report also found that 13% of internet now have access to the internet via mobile devices and detects “significant further growth potential” for online shopping.

Mike Hare, research director of the British Population Survey, said: “Recent technology developments, particularly in the area of roaming access via both laptops and handheld devices are clearly playing a part in the availability and convenience of online shopping services. This has been particularly evidenced by an increase in laptop ownership from 34.15% of households in March 2008 to 53.03% in March 2010.”

BPS and IMRG will follow up this report with the introduction of an e-Shopper Index that will regularly track the percentage of UK adults who shop online.

Our view: It’s good to see the growing confidence among shoppers that means they’re now more likely to shop online. More than 50% now do so, that must make this a mainstream activity. But as yet still only 6.9% of UK purchases are made online, according to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics – that’s a figure we can expect to grow fast as new online shoppers gain confidence. And of course that means online retailers will be doing all they can to help shoppers gain that confidence – from strong payment security to efficient delivery and returns.

This kind of detailed information about online shopping habits has been lacking in the past. But the launch of the new BPS/IMRG e-shopper index as well as the new internet shopping category in the Office for National Statistics monthly retail figures should prove a useful source of information for online strategists.

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