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Online retail searches boom in Q4 2012, led by massive smartphone and tablet growth

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The latest BRC-Google Online Retail Monitor for Q4 2012 finds that retail searches on tablets and smartphones are growing rapidly, with tablet searches of retailers up by a whopping 238% and smartphones up 76% year on year – faster than any other device or channel.

Across all online retailers, BRC-Google found that total retail search volumes grew by 14% in the fourth quarter compared to the same quarter in 2011. Total search volumes grew in homewares, up 28% year-on-year. For tablets the biggest growth came in clothing, up 273% year-on-year.

Retail searches hit a peak on Boxing Day, with more than twice as many searches taking place across all devices than on Christmas Eve. And consumers are going global, with overseas searches up a staggering 25% year-on-year.

Helen Dickinson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said: “This strong growth shows how online retail really came of age this Christmas. It’s playing an increasingly significant role at every stage of the customer journey, especially when researching items and comparing prices both at home and on the move. Retailers continue to invest in their online offer, and more and more of us are reaping the resulting benefits of more flexible delivery options, user friendly websites and improved accessibility and security.

“Much of this growth is driven by the continuing surge in smartphone and tablet ownership,” Dickinson continues. “Tablet searches outpaced those on any other device and were particularly widespread on Boxing Day when many used them to get a head start on the sales.

“Searches from overseas to UK retailers’ sites also had a strong showing, up by 25 per cent on the fourth quarter of 2011,” She adds. “This really brings home the UK’s position at the forefront of international e-commerce, and highlights the increasing importance of having a foothold on the global stage.”

Peter Fitzgerald, Retail Director, Google, adds: “I think Christmas 2012 will be remembered in the retail world as a particularly strong time for online. Not only did pureplays continue to do well, but those multichannel retailers who have embraced digital had strong performances in tough conditions. This Christmas was also a breakthrough time for tablets. Retailers reported record tablet sales and at Google, we saw the phenomenal growth of tablet queries continue. But we shouldn’t forget about the importance of smartphones. Mobile queries maintained healthy growth and smartphones increasingly became part of the Christmas shopper journey. 2013 will be a difficult but exciting time and I look forward to the developments we will see as online’s presence in retail continues to grow.”

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