Spending on smartphones overtakes shopping centres


What does the chart show?
It shows the top websites last year used by UK consumers for shopping via a smartphone or tablet device.

Amazon dominates, with nine in 10 people buying something from the website on their mobile or tablet, followed by eBay and Argos. Of the UK supermarkets, Tesco leads the way, with 38 per cent of shoppers using a smart device to shop there in the past 12 months.

The data also found more people now shop online using a smartphone or tablet than in shopping centres. The survey of more than 2,000 UK adults by price comparison website uSwitch.com found that, when asked how they do their shopping, 58 per cent of respondents said they shopped on a smart device, compared with 56 per cent in store.

Researchers used the survey responses to estimate that consumers will spend £25bn on goods ordered via their smartphones or tablets in 2019, a 66 per cent rise from 2018.

Why has smartphone shopping overtaken shopping centre shopping?
More than a third of people surveyed said they believed online shopping provides better value for money than going in store. Forty per cent of respondents found it “easier to compare prices” on their phones than in shopping centres.

Two-thirds of consumers expressed convenience as the main reason for shopping on a smartphone. The ability to shop at any time is important for 64 per cent of people — at work and on a commute were both stated as common smartphone shopping locations. Greater product choice is another strong driver away from in-store shopping.

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Ru Bhikha, mobiles expert at uSwitch.com, said: “For so many of us now, our smartphone is an extension of our hand and we have it with us at all times, meaning that we can shop whenever and wherever we like. Our handsets allow us to window shop all the time, and if we see something we like, it is right there at our fingertips.”

Are people buying everything online?
Clothes are the most popular products bought online. Increased competition has forced fashion manufacturers and retailers to lower prices, to the delight of consumers but detriment of the environment.

Many online fashion retailers, such as Asos and Topshop, also provide free delivery on orders over a certain total and free postal returns.

Clothes shopping was followed closely by people buying books, groceries and event tickets online. Half of people bought books online in the last year.

However, the lack of face-to-face customer service when shopping online means that for larger and more expensive items such as white goods, the in-store experience is still valuable. Richard Lim, chief executive of retail research consultancy Retail Economics, said that the “older generation” particularly values “having a meaningful experience in store”.

What does this mean for high streets?
Following the worst Christmas trading in a decade, high streets have been hit both by Brexit uncertainty and consumers choosing to shop online. Amazon dominates the online market and many retailers blamed its introduction of Black Friday, the post-Thanksgiving discount day, into the UK for their low Christmas sales.

In a bid to tackle online competition and cut costs, many retailers such as Marks and Spencer and New Look have reduced their high street presence. Eight of the top 10 internet retailers have physical stores, but online overheads are considerably lower.

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Enhancing the customer experience is key to maintaining physical stores. Many bookstores have set up in-store coffee shops, book talks and workshops to provide a better customer experience and services not provided by their biggest rival Amazon.

Retailers who fail to innovate risk falling behind their competitors. Mr Lim emphasised that the level of digitalisation necessary depends on the business and type of consumers, but that “putting your customer at the heart of your business” should always be the priority.

He added: “For many retailers that means reacting to the seismic structural changes in the way consumers shop.”



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