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UK mobile retail access via smartphone grew 163% in past year, finds ComScore

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Across France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, 13.5 million users –accounting for 5.8% of all mobile subscribers – accessed online retail sites in the three month average period ending May 2011. In the EU5 region, the number of smartphone users accessing online retail sites has increased by 80% over the past year. This growth is even stronger in the UK, with a 163% increase in smartphone users accessing retail sites since May 2010.

“Over the past year, online retailers enjoyed strong growth in visitation from mobile devices in Europe, largely driven by the acceleration in smartphone ownership,” says Jeremy Copp, comScore Europe vice president for mobile. “This trend represents both an opportunity and a threat for retailers. While mobile access offers retailers incremental occasions to engage with customers, it also provides customers the ability to easily compare prices at competing retailers while inside a particular retailer’s store. Retailers must get a firm handle on mobile shopping behavior if they are to effectively navigate this changing environment.”

In addition to accessing online retail sites, mobile consumers also accessed auction sites and shopping guides on their mobile devices. Over the three month average period ending May 2011, 6.3% of all EU5 mobile users reported having accessed an online auction site and 5.1% also reported having accessed online shopping guides.

Across the EU5 markets, the UK had the highest penetration for the three mobile retail categories. Approximately one in ten mobile users in the UK (10.5%) reported having accessed auction sites. A similar%age (9.2%) accessed online retail sites and 5.7% accessed shopping guides. The number of mobile users accessing online retail sites grew by 118% over the previous year, a rate that is even more pronounced among smartphone users (up 163%). The UK also displayed the most growth for users accessing auction sites (up 95%) and users accessing shopping guides (up 71%).

Second only to the UK, the German mobile market also displayed significant increases in users accessing auction sites (up 44%), users accessing online retail sites (up 45%) and users accessing shopping guides (up 42%). The growth in mobile retail activity in Germany is similarly more pronounced among the subset of smartphone users, as the number of users reporting having accessed auction sites, online retail sites or shopping guides approximately doubled in each of those categories. Such growth coincides with strong gains in smartphone ownership, which grew 63% in Germany and 56% in the UK over the past year.

An analysis of mobile browser vs. app usage provides additional insight into the growth in mobile retail penetration. Across all markets, auction sites, online retail sites and shopping guides were accessed through a browser by a greater%age of smartphone owners when compared to app access.

Browser usage was more pronounced in France, Italy and Spain, with applications used by less than 3% of smartphone users in these three markets. Germany showed relatively high%ages of app access for mobile retail activities, although a larger share of smartphone owners still reported using browsers.

A notable exception to this is the UK, where the%age of smartphone owners that reported using apps to access auction sites (11.6%) was higher than the%age that reported using browsers (10.0%).

“With mobile browsers still driving mobile retail activity in Europe, retailers hoping to capitalize on this trend should first look to develop a mobile-optimized website if they haven’t already,” said Jeremy Copp. “Apps, which often provide a more powerful and intuitive interface than browsers, will become increasingly important – especially as consumers begin to transact over their phones with greater regularity.”

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