80% of e-commerce purchases to involve a smartphone by 2020

Smartphone shopping in the UK is set to treble in value in just four years, according to new research from OC&C Strategy Consultants, Google and PayPal UK.

The report — The Mobile Mandate: How retailers must adapt in a mobile-first world — says that two thirds, or around £43bn, of UK e-commerce purchases will be made on a smartphone by 2020, up from £13.5bn in 2016.

Including those purchases where people use a smartphone to research and compare prices, as much as 80% or £57bn of all online retail in the UK will involve a smartphone by the end of the decade. However, the report also warned that UK retailers are lagging behind their international competitors when it comes to mobile readiness.

Alex Mathers, associate partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants, said: “Smartphone shopping is taking over online retail, bringing with it fundamental changes in how, when and where people shop. Brits are shopping more whilst out and about, they’re using mobile to research and compare prices for later purchases, and they’re spending more on mobile while in-store — very often with other retailers. There’s money to be made by tapping into these changing behaviours, but on the flip side, retailers that fail to adapt will find themselves haemorrhaging customers. Right now, the average UK retailer’s strategy should be mobile first — in a few years, it may well be mobile only.”

The study found that speed is the most important factor when shopping online, but leading UK retailer sites are on average 10-25% slower to load on smartphones than their US counterparts. Google research shows that improving load times by just one second can increase conversion rates by almost one third (27%).

UK retailers have also been much slower to embrace mobile chat support than those in the US — half of Britons (48%) would prefer customer support via mobile chat, but only 16% of the top 100 UK retailers currently offer this service, compared with 41% in the US.

Retailers should also establish a presence on messaging platforms, the report said.

“With more active users than social networks and growing, messaging apps have huge e-commerce potential. In the next ten years, platform presence may well be more important for retailers than having an app,” Mathers argued.

Mobile can be used as “the glue between online and in-store,” he continued. “Simple things like providing in-store Wi-Fi, to more advanced digital loyalty schemes, mobile-enabled barcode scanning and in-store wallets are already generating significant engagement, data and conversion benefits for the likes of Topshop, Tesco and Target. Finally, and most importantly, make speed king. Improve load times, but also help consumers complete their mission as quickly as possible — streamline the journey, and help users work cross-device via things like basket sharing, wish-lists and sharing recently viewed items across devices.”

If you would like to learn more about mobile shopping and connected consumer trends, please read our latest international research report “The European connected consumer: a life lived online“. Through research that questioned 7,000 consumers, comprising 1,000 from each of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK, our report identifies consumer trends and the associated business and legal challenges. 

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