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Online shoppers move from PC to mobile as they shop more often, but with five or fewer retailers

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The likely direction of online shopping is spelt out in new figures released this week.

Research from business adviser PwC found that fewer shoppers are using their PC to buy online. Rather they’re turning to smartphones and tablets.

The study, Achieving total retail: consumer expectations driving the next retail business model, questioned more than 15,000 online shoppers in 15 countries over the course of August and September 2013. Of those, more than 1,000 respondents were from the UK.

The study found that the use of PCs in ecommerce was down by 7% in August and September 2013, compared to the same research carried out in 2012. Stores also saw their share of trade fall, with shopping down by 5%. Instead, the use of mobile to shop online was up by 46%, and the use of tablets by 56%.

PwC says the research reflects a change in consumer behaviour. “Consumers are choosing the shopping method that suits them best,” said Matthew Tod, UK retail and digital partner at PwC. “Whilst store decline has been visible for a number of years, it now seems to be the turn of the PC to suffer as consumer shopping behaviour continues to evolve.”

More than a third of UK internet shoppers (37%) now buy online every week, and 64% say better deals are the big attraction.

Tod said: “Consumers are becoming ever more complicated and retailers now have to figure out how to provide what they want in a profitable way. There’s an increasing requirement for retailers to transform their business, not just simply adding more channels.”

Interesting findings included the statistic that 57% of UK online shoppers buy with five or fewer online retailers. Asked why they shopped at their top three retailers, 85% cited trust, and 79% price.

A third of UK respondents had shopped cross-border, buying from European retailers. When asked why, 83% of those that did said it was because the product was not available in the UK.

“Retailers need to be more aware of online competition from outside the UK,” said Tod. “Consumers will go outside their comfort zone to get the product they want rather than wait for a UK retailer to stock the item.”

Our view: There are useful insights here into the changing way we’re shopping. The large-scale transition from the PC to mobile device will be confirmation for many of a well-established trend. More surprising statistics, and one that retailers must take into account in their strategies, are how willing UK shoppers are to shop across borders, and the fact that most UK shoppers can count the number of online retailers they shop with on the fingers of one hand.

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