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Search for UK retailers grows, especially from emerging markets and via smartphone

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There’s fast growth in the number of shoppers from around the world who are searching for UK brands and retailers, new figures suggest. Interest is growing both from established and emerging markets, and is rising particularly quickly on smartphones as mobile networks outstrip fixed-line broadband networks, the latest BRC-Google Online Retail Monitor, for the fourth quarter of 2014, found this week.

The monitor measures growth in the number of searches over mobile devices – smartphones and tablet computers – for UK retailers and brands. It found substantial growth rates among emerging markets. In Brazil, the number of smartphone searches for UK retailers grew by 717%, with tablet searches up by 89%. Indian mobile searches were up by 108%, with tablet search up by 9%, and in Russia mobile searches were up by 67% but tablet searches were down by 7%.

More established international markets also showed growth. Growing interest in UK retailers came from Argentina (+240%, via smartphone), Poland (+97%, via smartphone), and Hungary (+88%, via smartphones). These countries also saw growing numbers of searches from tablet computers, but at a slower rate: Argentinian tablet search volumes grew by 1%, while in Poland they were up by 26% and 35% in Hungary. The fastest growth in searches from a tablet computer came from Ireland (+39%), where mobile searches grew by 61%.

Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium , said the figures clearly demonstrated the appetite of consumers across the globe for UK retail. “This presents an enormous market opportunity for retailers regardless of their size,” she said. “One of the key trends retailers will be paying close attention to is that, in the emerging markets, the first digital point of contact for a huge number of consumers is a smartphone or tablet device. This is because in many of those markets mobile infrastructure is far superior to the fixed-line broadband networks in more established economies like the UK.

“This means that if Britain’s retailers want to take advantage of the interest being abroad they’ll need to continue their investment in device-optimised platforms; ensuring that no matter how a customer first comes into contact with them they can offer the world beating service that is the hallmark of British retailing.

“It is absolutely clear from today’s statistics that there is an international market for UK retailers and there is strong international demand for their products. In order to take best advantage of this it is incumbent on governments and international regulators to ensure that they help, not hinder, UK retailers reach keen consumers around the globe.”

Peter Fitzgerald, retail director, Google , said: “The growth of mobile and connected devices continued to power our clients’ export efforts in 2014, with many of the largest emerging and established markets seeing astounding smartphone growth. Understanding the role of mobile in the purchase process is vital if retailers are to unlock its full value.

“In the UK you can’t talk about Q4 without mentioning Black Friday, which saw phenomenal uptake with four times as many searches for Black Friday deals in 2014 than in the previous year. Given these impressive figures, we expect to see interest in Black Friday continue to grow in 2015.

“British leisure brands really blazed a trail this Christmas, with an impressive 285% increase in searches compared to the same period in 2013. Beauty and personal care also saw a real surge of interest, with fragrances, candles, and skincare products all seeing impressive year on year search growth.”

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