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Seven in ten UK shoppers buy online – but fewer than two in 10 businesses sell over the internet

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Some 71% of British people now shop online – but only 14.9% of British businesses sell over the internet, according to the European Commission.

The proportion of people who shop online has risen by four percentage points since 2010, the EC’s latest Digital Agenda Scoreboard shows.

Meanwhile 81% of the UK population use the internet at least once a week, up by one percentage point since 2010, and 13 percentage points above the EU average of 68%.

The UK has passed EU targets including having 50% of the population who shop online and 75% who use the internet regularly, but it still falls short on the European target of having 20% of the population buying online across borders. And while the EU target is for 33% of each country’s small and medium sized businesses to sell online, the UK falls short at 14.3%.

The latest scoreboard figures come as the European Commission says that Europe’s citizens, businesses and innovators are generating enough digital demand to put Europe into sustainable economic growth, but that failure to supply the necessary online content, fast internet and relevant skills is undermining this potential. Across Europe, for example, 58% of EU internet users are shopping online – past the EU target of 50% – but only one in ten have bought from a website in another EU member state, well short of the target of 20%.

The research also points to a “stalling” in the use of ecommerce by small and medium-sized businesses.

European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes said: “Europeans are hungry for digital technologies and more digital choices, but governments and industry are not keeping up with them. This attachment to 20th century policy mindsets and business models is hurting Europe’s economy. It’s a terrible shame. We are shooting ourselves in the foot by under-investing. Europe will be flattened by its global competitors if we continue to be complacent.”

European proposals to address the situation include investing €80bn in ICT and related sectors and an ecommerce action plan to make it easier for shoppers to buy across borders solving problems such as payment, delivery and consumer protection, that was first put forward this January.

Adam Stewart, marketing director at Rakuten’s, said: “It was frustrating to read statistics from the European Commisssion’s Digital Agenda team this morning, which revealed that just 14% of small businesses sell their products online, despite the fact that 71% of Brits currently shop online.

“The internet should be liberating Britain’s smaller retailers. The web is essentially a customisable shop front, requiring minimal infrastructure costs, while attracting footfall beyond the confines of the high street. You don’t need to hire a web developer to get involved either, using marketplaces like Rakuten’s, small retailers can avoid the administrative headaches of payment systems and portal set-up, and simply get products quickly to market.

“Better still, using social tools like Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook, small businesses can market their business at a fraction of the cost and resource previously required. Ultimately, we’re living in a world where digital presence increasingly validates the physical world and all businesses need to respond or be left behind.”

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