Christmas web traffic for UK retailers driven by international shoppers performing mobile searches

3rd February 2016

According to figures released by the BRC-Google online retail monitor this week, Christmas web traffic for UK retailers was positively influenced by a surge in the amount of web searches performed by international shoppers using mobile devices.

Online mobile

This increase appears to be part of a wider retail trend, as searches on mobile devices have risen steadily year on year – highlighting the need for retailers to develop responsive, mobile-friendly sites and retail apps. – but these new figures show that a lot of this traffic is now coming from abroad, so now retailers must rise to the challenge to adapt and respond to make the most of this valuable information highlighting a new potential market.

The biggest rise in international mobile searches was seen by beauty and fashion retailers who experienced rises of 51% and 41% respectively during the last sales quarter of 2015. Both increases appeared to be offset by a drop in searches on tablet devices – and this pattern appeared to be repeated across all retail sectors – possibly prompted by the size increase in mobile screens and the rise of the ‘phablet’ where people can now comfortably browse the internet on their phone without needing to see a larger screen. In addition to this – thanks to a rise in retail apps and comparison software, along with challenging market conditions – shoppers are now becoming savvy and search for the cheapest prices on their mobile device whilst they are on the high street, rather than traipsing from store to store hoping for a bargain and fearing that they might be missing out.

Speaking to Retail Week about the increase, Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of BRC suggested that – obviously – the internet had played a vital role in driving sales:

“The internet played a vital role in driving sales for UK retailers and, as has been the case for some time now, mobile devices were key to this.

“Among the ever-expanding range of mobile devices used by the internet-savvy overseas shopper, smartphones continue to be the most popular. This was particularly the case for shoppers in India, where we saw an impressive 39% increase in smartphone use to search for UK brands.

“Russia and Brazil likewise saw a significant bump in consumers shopping with their phones.”

Martijn Bertisen, retail director at Google concurred:

“In 2014 we saw strong mobile growth from our Eastern neighbours – classically early mobile adopters – and we can see the impact of that now.”

So now that UK retailers have this information they must act on it – to ensure that their proposition is set up for international sales and tailored for mobile devices, whilst also keeping their UK customers happy. Will they be ready for next Christmas? We will be keeping a close eye on this story to see how it develops.


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