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Retail searches rise in first quarter of 2017, especially on mobile

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Shoppers from the UK and abroad were more likely to go online to search for British department stores and clothing in the first quarter of 2017, new data suggests.

Overall, retail searches rose by 7% across all devices in the first quarter, and by 23% from smartphones, according to the BRC-Google Online Retail Monitor for the first quarter of the year.

Searches for clothing from overseas customers using their smartphones rose by 52% on the previous year, while searches for department stores rose by 50% over the same period.

Estonia demonstrated the strongest appetite for UK retailers from the EU, reporting an 84% increase on smartphone devices in the first quarter of 2017.

Within the UK, the South West saw the fastest growth in search volumes at 23% compared with the same quarter a year ago, whilst Northern Ireland and Wales both grew by 19%. In contrast London saw a decline of 8% over the period.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) , said the figures pointed to the significance of retailers tailoring their online offering to traditional browsing and mobile platforms. “Smartphone-ready sites and quick loading times are essential to holding customers’ attention and converting searches into sales,” she said.

“A closer look at the different areas of the UK shows that online searches from nations and regions beyond the centre are growing at a faster rate than urban hubs such as London, which actually saw a fall. Meanwhile, browsing activity from overseas remains strong, with countries as far flung as Estonia and large markets like Germany seeing particularly strong growth.

“Online sales now consistently make up over a fifth of total retail sales at home, while the appetite for UK brands abroad is clear to see. Satisfying this interest from home and abroad, via computer or smartphone, is the key for UK retailers to make the best of their online offering.”

Martijn Bertisen, retail director at Google , said: “In the first quarter of the year, digital continued to drive growth for our UK retailers. Retail searches steadily grew throughout the quarter post-Christmas, reaching 9% growth in March. Smartphone growth shows no sign of slowing down, with retail searches from mobile devices up 23% year-over-year, seven percentage points higher than last quarter.”

He said the UK figures showed the importance of thinking local. “We have seen up to 40% of searches on Google have local intent, as consumers are more likely to research their purchases online before visiting a store.”

Commenting on the figures, Craig Smith VP of solutions and customer success at Amplience , said the figures illustrated changing spending habits. “As more people shop from their phones, customer attention spans are shrinking, and retailers are not helped by small screens and slow connection speeds. Once a customer is shopping on mobile, the experience must be relevant and served to them quickly.

‘While it is clear that many retailers are working hard at delivering a quality mobile shopping experience, there is still room for improvement. All too familiar responsive designs may have a lower total cost of ownership, but often deliver a compromised experience on mobile. They are often slower to load and don’t display the content as beautifully as you need for maximum yield on traffic. The most popular applications on mobile are all designed for mobile first – not compromised. You’re not going to get that highly engaging Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram like experience by serving content that is not relevant but simply shoehorned from a desktop screen with wi-fi to fit on a mobile display using a mobile network.

 Mobile retailing must target the user with personalised content that is relevant to them.”

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