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UK e-shoppers reach tipping point as smartphones become dominant device

Published
today Mar 5, 2019
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Smartphones are now the dominant device for online shopping. That was the key insight from the latest quarterly IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index which showed that over 40% of online sales were made through smartphones in Q4 2018/19.


More UK shoppers now reach for their smartphone than their computer when they decide to buy something online


Smartphones have overtaken desktop/laptop’s share of online sales for the first time and Q4 saw a record high for the percentage of online traffic through these handy always-in-your-pocket devices.

That’s really important for the fashion industry with fashion retailers having been among the most active in terms of optimising their sites for mobile or introducing dedicated apps.

Q4, which covers the crucial Christmas shopping period and clearance sales (November, December and January), saw shoppers spending more money through their smartphones when accessing UK retail sites than either desktop or tablet.

The share of sales revenue spent through smartphones was 40.4%, with desktop/laptop securing 39.7% and tablets 19.9%. A further milestone was reached in December alone, with smartphones accounting for over 70% of mobile device sales for the first time with tablets’ share only 30%.

And looking beyond the site visits that include an actual sale to take in all site visits (including those where consumers are simply browsing), in Q4, just under three-quarters (74.3%) of visits were made through mobile devices. That left just 25.7% to be made through desktop/laptops. 

As recently as 2015, the picture was very different with the percentage of visits coming through smartphones and tablets versus desktop/laptops being even.

Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director, IMRG, said: “This is another significant step in smartphones becoming the dominant device through which we manage so many aspects of our lives. It has taken a little while though – the iPhone was first released in 2007, and for a long time people were visiting product pages through smartphones in large numbers but then completing purchases elsewhere. It wasn’t until late 2015 when it started to really gain traction as a fully transactional device for online shopping.

“This does not spell the end of other devices being used for online retail purchases, however – people tend to use multiple devices depending on which is most convenient. So, for example, during standard working hours a higher proportion of sales come through desktop as people are sat in front of their computers at work.”

Lucy Gibbs, Senior Consultant in Retail Analytics at Capgemini Invent, added: “Smartphones make it easier than other forms to be truly omnichannel, which is about being where your customers are, and therefore are optimally placed for influencing the retail customer journey. The advancements over the last few years in mobile banking, in-app purchases and a greater focus on optimising m-commerce sites have all led to the facilitation and increased confidence in purchasing on smartphones.”

But she also said that while smartphones have now reached the largest share in revenue, they’re still seeing the lowest conversion rates, behind tablets and desktop. That said, “the significance of our use of mobile in influencing our buying decisions should not be underestimated even when we are completing purchases elsewhere.”

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