26.08.18

The short answer is: more than anywhere else in the world, but still nowhere near as much as we shop in store.

The slightly longer answer is that consumers now use a wide range of tools and interaction points to make a purchase. The old barrier to eCommerce; not being able see and touch an item before buying it, is being steadily eroded by a user-friendly returns process and a fluid approach to instore / online shopping.

A recent Retail Drive consumer survey found that essentially customers still want to “kick a tire” before buying it – but passing the kicking test no longer guarantees that tire a spot on the customer’s wheel. 55% of us now visit stores to examine a product before buying online. That’s a problem for both sides of the fence: for those selling online, it means customers are unwilling to completely trust reviews, images and descriptions, while for in-store retailers, customers are using their expensive floor space as they would a public library.

The solution? Blur the line between the two. If customers insist on bouncing between stores, desktops and mobile devices, then let them bounce, but try and bounce them in the right direction. It’s why merchants are investing millions in omnichannel retail. Store assistants armed with tablets can answer stock / product questions quickly and easily, and even take an eCommerce order then and there. Of course, customers are still willing and able to whip out their smartphones to check out the competition, but a strong mobile presence will drastically improve the chances of maintaining the sale.

With that in mind, how much does the UK spend online? Well, per household it’s estimated at £4,611, more than any other country on earth. What’s more remarkable still is the speed of growth: online spending jumped 16% last year, fuelled by the continued growth of smartphone shopping which was up 47% year-on-year in December 2016.

But this is where we need a reality check: 88% of all shopping in the UK is still done in physical stores. It’s why we’ve seen purely online players such as Amazon and And Other Stories investing in high street stores.

Online shopping is growing at dizzying speed, but we should keep a level head – in store is still, for now, the biggest bully in the playground. Looking to the future however, we’re likely to see an omnichannel approach to retail move from a nice-to-have, to an outright survival strategy.