High Streets Initiative · 30 June 2017

Smartphone sales buck downward trend in retail spending

woman makes online shopping on a tablet
Online smartphone sales grew by almost half in May

Having reliable, fast and robust internet connectivity is an increasingly crucial asset for independent retailers, as new industry data has confirmed that in the UK, online smartphone sales are bucking a downward trend in consumer spending.

According to a recent report from UK online retail association IMRG, retail smartphone sales grew by almost half in May 2017, as more than half of all visits to UK online shops now come from smartphones or tablets.

The UK is the third largest ecommerce market in the world, behind China and the US, but the infrastructure and technology is not yet in place to support online retail’s rapid growth alongside the fast-changing behaviour of consumers.

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Recent analysis from retail watchdog Which? revealed that a dozen local authorities across Britain currently fall short of the government’s “universal service obligation” minimum broadband speed, set at 10Mps. Which? found that some major retail areas, including some parts of London, fail to meet the national average broadband speed of 17Mbps.

Commenting on the recent data, head at ecommerce systems integrator Tryzens, Andy Burton, said that despite the external factors effecting broadband infrastructure, there were steps independent retail owner could take to give themselves a better chance of boosting tablet and smartphone sales.

Burton said: “The first step is to ensure ecommerce platforms are optimised, robust and able to adapt to the changing pressures and competing forces, particularly the challenge around mobile technology and connectivity.

“Taking a mobile-first approach to building out an ecommerce offering is an important step. I don’t mean just making sure the mobile site or app is responsive and intuitive, but that it truly reflects what the user wants, is ergonomically appropriate and supports rapid progress in mobile innovation, be it through location, biometrics, payment services or apps.”

According to recent tests conducted by the Financial Times into ecommerce site speeds, for every one second longer an ecommerce page takes to load, its sales conversion rate falls by 4.9 per cent over a seven-day period. For a load time decrease of three seconds, the sales conversion rate falls by 7.2 per cent over seven days.

Burton went on to say: “It is clear the negative impact that poor coverage can cause for retailers. Any delays when using a brand’s ecommerce site will see consumers drop off.

“The UK’s reputation for some of the most advanced ecommerce technology is strong. The smartphone is pervasive and ever present, and as identifiable to an individual as a thumbprint or a signature.

“It is ironic that all our citizens don’t have equal access to the technological foundations that drive adoption. Retailers should rightly fight against these challenges, and try to stay competitive by investing in their own infrastructure.”

Catch up with more from the Business Advice High Streets Initiative: 

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

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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