High Streets Initiative · 7 August 2017

Online beauty and apparel retailers see greatest rise in overseas smartphone searches

The Google EU ruling has been criticised by the search engine as favouring large companies over independents
Online shoppers in Estonia were the greatest contributor to increased smartphone searches to UK retailers

British retailers are benefitting from a significant increase in smartphone searches from overseas, as new Google data confirms that mobile devices are fast becoming the dominant source of online retail browsing.

­Using figures from Google’s online retail monitor, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) found the volume of smart phone searches leading to online UK stores increased by 26 per cent in the second quarter of 2017 compared to the previous year.

Commenting on the findings, Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said that while growth in total online retail searches remained unchanged from 2016, the proportion from mobile devices meant smartphones had now become the “main contributor”.

A substantial rise in smartphone searches from overseas was noted as shifting the balance.

Online beauty retailers saw the biggest climb in mobile searches from international customers, reporting growth of 42 per cent between the second quarter of 2017 and the year previously.

Dickinson added: “At home, the top trending searches by UK consumers were prompted by seasonal events and occasions. Beauty brands in particular continue to attract interest from overseas as well as UK consumers, which put the category firmly at the top of the growth rankings.”

Meanwhile, apparel also remained a popular sector for overseas consumers using smart phones. British clothing retailers saw a 38 per cent rise in the same period.

In terms of where renewed enthusiasm for UK retail was coming from, online shoppers in Estonia showed the heaviest appetite, with smartphone searches leading to British retailers growing by 77 per cent.

“One in five pounds are now consistently spent online for non-food purchases at home, while the growth in mobile browsing from the EU demonstrates a stable appetite for UK brands from overseas consumers.

“Satisfying this interest from abroad through retailers’ digital offer, is crucial to go some way to offsetting the more discretionary spending habits of hard-pressed UK consumers,” Dickinson noted.

Martijn Bertisen, retail director at Google, agreed that interest in UK brands from the EU and beyond continued to benefit small business owners.

Bertisen added: “As consumer shopping journeys increasingly involve multiple touch-points across digital and non-digital channels, we have seen UK retailers respond by protecting always-on presence across digital channels, and seriously invest in omni-channel measurement.”

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This article is part of a wider campaign called the High Streets Initiative, a new section of Business Advice championing independent and small retailers by identifying the issues that put Britain’s high streets under pressure. Visit our High Streets Initiative section to find out more.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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