Why the E-Commerce Revolution is Great for British Retailers


No matter what your age is, there are few things more exciting than unwrapping a parcel that you’ve received in the post. Online shopping is a lure that is difficult to ignore, and it seems that this pull is one that is becoming increasingly strong across the globe.

Research conducted by the world’s largest e-commerce companies, OC&C Strategy Consultants, PayPal and Google, has predicted that the combined online retail economy of the UK, US, Germany and China will double in size to be worth £645 billion by the year 2018. Online shopping is already huge for people living in the UK, with the report stating that British people spend £1 of every £5 of the nation’s total spend through the internet.

The study also showed how mobile shopping has become such a huge part of the online retailing world. Many of the world’s biggest online shops, including ASOS and New Look to name just two, now have their own apps that you can download on to your tablet and smartphone, allowing you to make your purchases on the go. And who can blame them? The figures showed that 59% of online sales in the UK were conducted through tablets or smartphone, so not being in the mobile shopping business would be a mistake for retailers.

Sales Director at Google UK, Martijn Bertisen, commented on these figures: “The number of people with internet access is growing fast, with many new consumers skipping the desktop phase entirely and only experiencing the web through a smartphone.

“Our study shows that this is increasingly translating into mobile transactions and that a mobile-first or even mobile-only strategy is now imperative to international success in retail. UK retailers should be well positioned to lead this growth internationally, as UK consumers are already amongst the most mobile of all.”

UK is leading the charge when it comes to mobile shopping, as mobile figures for the UK were a significant way ahead of other countries. According to figures from PayPal, 59% of online transactions in the UK were carried out on mobile phones, compared to Germany at 24% and the US at 45%.


Made in Britain

It’s not just Britons themselves who are seeking UK-made products, it seems. According to a study conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, those abroad appear to strive to own British products too, with figures showing that British retailers who export overseas could earn an additional £2.1 billion if they brand their goods with the slogan ‘Made in Britain’. That’s right, simply by adding the Union Jack Flag to a product, apparently a consumer’s inclination to make a purchase increases significantly. The study also found that a ‘Made in Britain’ label could trigger a readiness to pay 7% more for a product, compared to those that did not declare their country of origin.

The exception to this was for alcoholic drinks, where the study found that boasting about a product being ‘Made in Scotland’ added a far greater premium than ‘Made in Britain’, particularly in Ireland and the United States. You win some, you lose some.

Why buy British?


The lure to buy British products for people who live here is not difficult to understand. Given the publicity surrounding certain food scandals over the past few years, more and more people are eager to be reassured that their food hasn’t come from far away, and has been prepared properly in accordance with stringent guidelines. Given the increasing demand for organic food, supermarkets are feeling the urge to slap a Union Flag on all of their products, particularly the fruit, veg and meat products.

But what attracts people who live abroad towards buying British-branded products, especially when it comes to paying that little bit more to export it over? It appears that price isn’t a barrier, with the CEBR study showing that Chinese shoppers choose to buy products online from British retailers almost as often as people living here do; spending an average of 2.7 more than they do with retailers in their own country. Germany wasn’t too far behind, with its consumers apparently spending 1.7 times more with British retailers.

For many us living in Britain, we tend to look abroad to countries like China when we want to buy cheaper clothes, regardless of the delivery speed, but what if it is the exact opposite for people living abroad? London is considered to be one of the fashion capitals of the world, with such designers and fashion houses under its belt as Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Burberry; Britain is renowned across the world for producing high quality and stylish clothes. This begs the age-old question of if the quality is outstanding, does it justify a higher price tag? It seems to be that if the product is British, then the answer is yes.

A bright British future


Whatever the reason is, the figures are showing that sales of British products online are on the increase, which can only mean good things for the economy. Commenting on the study by OC&C, PayPal and Google, Head of Retail at OC&C, Anita Balchandani, said the report promised a strong future for businesses based in Britain: “The study has shown that UK retailers are some of the world’s most popular and are in a strong position to seize more opportunities abroad.

“But at the moment, the majority are only doing the basics to adequately serve foreign markets, for example, by offering international delivery on their UK website and working with partners to provide local returns addresses.”

In order for this trend to continue, British businesses need to ensure that their exporting options are as quick, cheap and efficient as possible, in order to increase orders from abroad. The evidence has shown that people are willing to overlook higher prices if they are receiving top-quality products in return, but this could all turn around if the shipping prices and delivery times are sky high and slow. Making the whole process easier for your customer is key; so offering cheap delivery services and a simple returns policy will hopefully encourage your customers to come back for more.



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