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Online shopping takes just £5 in every £100 away from high street – but only if you have an omni-channel approach, suggests eBay-Deloitte study

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Fears that online and mobile retailing are cannibalizing – or even killing – the high street appear unfounded, with research by eBay and Deloitte across 21 leading retailers in the UK dress market and German white goods market, suggesting that for every £100 spend online, only £5 is being taken away from UK high street retailers.

The study shows that for leading retailers who sell across multiple channels, over 95% of online dress sales in the UK are additional to high street sales. These statistics are mirrored by results in the German white goods market, where 98% of online sales are additional for retailers.

In the UK dress market, the analysis is based on 17 of the top 30 retailers who have both store and online sales, and for which data were available, over a 5 year period from 2009-2013. These retailers held 54% of the total dress market, and 40% of the online market in 2013.

The study suggests their success is achieved because shoppers can hop from channel to channel, making use of cross channel options like payment via mobile or Click & Collect, to make shopping more personal and convenient. Traditional customer frustrations such as un-stocked shelves or queues at the till are solved by offering customers alternative purchase, collection and payment options.

The results show that there is a significant opportunity for retailers. Deloitte estimates that in the UK last year up to €9 billion of sales may have been enabled by omni-channel retail (some of these sales may have taken place later on in stores, but equally may never have taken place at all), and €7 billion in Germany.

Watch the exclusive video interview with eBay director of retail marketing, Patrick Munden


“Being online acts in two ways,” says Patick Munden, head of retailer marketing, eBay. “There is the advertising effect: where constantly having your brand appear online in searches and in advertising inspires people to come to your store. Then there is the search effect, which means that you have to keep appearing where people are searching. These two factors see online keenly driving offline sales.”

The study also finds that retailers who have a presence on eBay drive more customers into their high street stores. Those retailers studied who also have a presence on eBay experience an increase in store sales by 1.2 per cent, which for certain dress retailers in the study would be equivalent to an increase of about 7.3% in advertising spending, or an 8.9% increase in relative web searches.

“eBay in many ways acts like another set of channels: offering yet another online and mobile presence and reinforcing the advertising and search effects we see online,” explains Munden.

Across Europe, the study found that the take-up of online sales varies markedly between countries – Germany, the UK and France have rapidly embraced online, while the share of online retail sales in Italy and Spain is lower.

However, cross-border trade is growing fast – retailers in the UK and Germany generated over $8bn in online retail exports in 2012, with UK fashion exports alone being estimated at $1.22bn in 2013. Sales of women’s dresses from to Spanish buyers have doubled from 2010 to 2012.

Last year a PayPal study found that Cross-Border online trade between the six largest markets worldwide is already estimated to be worth over $100bn annually, and this figure is predicted to triple by 2018.

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