Digital has continued to drive growth for UK retailers with online retail searches steadily growing throughout the post-Christmas quarter, boosted by a massive increase in searches on smartphone devices.
According to the latest BRC-Google Online Retail Monitor, overall online retail searches in the UK grew seven per cent in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same period last year, with searches on smartphones alone increasing by 23 per cent year-on-year.
Fashion was the most-searched for sector by overseas consumers on smartphone devices, reporting growth of 52 per cent in the first quarter.
Department stores was also another popular sector for overseas consumers on smartphone devices, increasing 50 per cent the first quarter.
In terms of the UK’s regions, the South West had the fastest growth in search volumes at 23 per cent compared with the same quarter a year ago, while Northern Ireland and Wales both grew by 19 per cent.
In contrast, London saw a decline of eight per cent in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, Estonia had the strongest appetite for UK retailers from the EU, reporting an 84 per cent increase on smartphone devices.
“This points to the significance of retailers tailoring their online offering to suit both traditional browsing and mobile platforms in order to satisfy shoppers,” British Retail Consortium (BRC) chief executive Helen Dickinson said.
“Smartphone-ready sites and quick loading times are essential to holding customers‘ attention and converting searches into sales.
“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.”
Google retail director Martijn Bertisen said: “Smartphone growth shows no sign of slowing down, with retail searches from mobile devices up 23 per cent year-over-year, seven percentage points higher than last quarter.
“Looking overseas, the EU continues to fuel growth in demand for UK brands. In particular, Eastern European nations like Estonia and Romania showed growth of more than 70% year-over-year from smartphones.
“Closer to home, we saw a slowdown in retail-related searches from Greater London, however there was an increasing appetite from the rest of the country, particularly on mobile.
“This highlights the importance of thinking local, we have seen up to 40 per cent of searches on Google have local intent, as consumers are more likely to research their purchases online before visiting a store.”