Consumers using smartphones to shop


A growing number of smartphone and tablet owners are enjoying the convenience of searching for anything from furniture to wedding dresses while on the move, a new report shows.


According to the latest research from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Google, total retail search volumes increased by more than a quarter in the second three months of 2011, compared with the same quarter in 2010. Much of this increase was due to a surge in the number of people using smartphones and tablets to search for retail products.

Consumers may be warming up to shopping with smartphones
Online shopping has really taken off, with the latest figures showing that total retail search volumes grew by 27% in the second quarter of 2011, compared with the same quarter the previous year. According to the BRC-Google Online Retail Sales Monitor, mobile search volumes increased by an impressive 216% year-on-year, suggesting that a growing number of people are willing to make debit and credit card purchases via their mobile phones.

"While the retail sector as a whole is going through a difficult period, the boom in online retail continues," said BRC director general Stephen Robertson in the report. "The star performer is mobile, with the number of retail searches being carried out on smartphones and tablets more than [tripling] for this quarter compared with the same period last year."

Mobile shopping convenient, 'always available'
According to the report, there was a 34% increase in the number of overseas consumers searching for UK retailers in the second quarter of 2011, compared with the same period in 2010. Meanwhile, the report confirmed that the number of UK consumers searching for overseas retailers rose by 76%, showing that Britons are benefiting from easier access to the global marketplace.

Peter Fitzgerald, retail director at Google, also revealed in the report that while overall retail search volumes dipped temporarily during the period of warm weather in April, mobile searches "remained constant throughout the quarter." 

"This is unsurprising given the 'always on' nature of mobile users," said Mr Fitzgerald.

Retailers getting in on the act
Mr Robertson observed that retailers are fuelling the trend by developing mobile-optimised websites, apps and payment platforms. This is supported by the latest annual 'IT in retail' report from Martec International and BT Expedite, which found that investment in IT is currently at an all-time low among retailers, with companies opting to invest in online and mobile commerce instead. 

See related: Mobile operators team up for payments venture; Credit card usage surges as more shoppers buy presents online

Published: 18 July 2011