UK Online Retail Market Boosts B2C Commerce

By Chanel Smith, EMEA Editor (@PYMNTS_EMEA

British consumers have become a focal point for eCommerce studies, as they are frequently cited as the most fervent online users in the world.

UK shoppers are quite enthusiastic when it comes to shopping online, both through desktop and mobile devices. This is especially true when it comes to buying clothing, which eMarketer cited as a driving factor in British B2C online sales in 2012.

While some global consumers remain reluctant to buy clothes online due to hurdles such as fitting estimations, shipping fees and return policies, buyers in the UK aren’t shying away from buying clothes – or any number of items—online.

Why is the UK’s online retail market more successful than those in other countries around the world?

Mobile Commerce Offers A Helping Hand

According to eMarketer, shopping online through mobile devices (tablets and smartphones) is well liked amongst the British, and greatly contributes to the increase of the country’s B2C digital sales. Tablets specifically are becoming more popular for online purchases, despite the fact that the majority of online transactions are still done on traditional desktops or personal laptops.

In 2013, mobile device sales are predicted to rise 71.8 percent year-over-year to £6.61 billion, which represents about 15 percent of total UK online retail sales. Moreover, eMarketer researchers expect that retail sales over mobile channels will continue to grow more than £2 billion each year for the next four years. If these projections come true, the online retail market will jump from the current £10 billion to £17.24 billion by 2017.

Retail Conquers UK Sales 

According to the Office for National Statistics in the UK, as reported by eMarketer, a study of digital consumption in Great Britain showed that at the end of 2012 clothing and sporting goods were the most frequently purchased items online (44 percent). Other popular categories included household goods (36 percent), travel arrangements (31 percent), holiday bookings (29 percent) and event tickets (31 percent).

How did retail sales come to lead the UK’s eCommerce market when so many international consumers elsewhere remain hesitant? 

EMarketer reports that UK fashion retailers have coaxed consumers by reducing online fears through offering flexible return policies and waiving shipping fees. Retail giants Tesco and ASOS introduced virtual fitting room solutions to help shoppers better decipher clothing sizes. Online fitting room solutions are crucial for building consumer confidence when buying retail items online. Retailers benefit from these tools as well since they help to reduce the volume of returned items.

Additionally, there are several online sites, such as BrandAlley and Style Compare, which help consumers find the best online deal by comparing product prices across different retailers.

The eCommerce market is growing more competitive as the channel becomes more popular. Consumers are attracted to online shopping because they can do so on mobile devices, and without location and time restrictions. Retail is only one example of a category that is struggling to reduce customer reluctance. However online retailers can learn new strategies through observing how the UK market has managed to overcome challenges and increase online sales.

To read the full study at eMarketer click here.

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