Retail on Mobile Edges Ahead of Desktop Sales in UK, Report Finds

More than half of all online retail sales were made on mobile devices in Q4 2015/16 according to the latest report from retail industry body IMRG and consultancy firm Capgemini.

This is the first time that smartphones and tablets have accounted for more sales than laptop and desktop web browsing, according to the report, which says mobile now account for 51 per cent of online sales. The previous quarter saw mobile devices account for 45 per cent of sales, while the same quarter last year saw mobile account for 40 per cent of sales.

Traffic is also up on mobile, which has a 66 per cent share of traffic to retail sites – up from 53 per cent in the same quarter last year.

“Smartphones have played an important role in the overall online shopping process for a long time – often used for research and comparison on the go – but over the past year they have really started to become a major component of the checkout process too and that is what is driving this leap in mobile penetration,” says Tina Spooner, chief information officer at IMRG. “In January, sales via smartphones grew 95.6 per cent year-on-year, for example – over seven times the rate of those via tablets.

“In 2014 the rate of growth via smartphones appeared to be slowing down, but in 2015 it shot up again. The main reason for this is likely to be related to the design trend for larger screens, but many mobile retail sites have improved significantly to give a far better experience and inspire confidence in shoppers. There is also the fact that we increasingly use our smartphones for managing so much of our lives – it’s only logical that completing purchases on retail sites would gravitate over to these devices as well.”

Richard Tremellen, retail insight and data specialist at Capgemini, says the reports findings represent a significant milestone in the history of online retail. “Not only have mobile platforms become more secure, but the payment process is also much slicker,” he says. “The result is smartphone conversion rates that are 70-80 per cent higher than this time last year.

“The figures illustrate that retailers have well and truly embraced the potential that the mobile channel can offer in reaching customers, and given that mobile advertising and geo-location marketing are yet to hit maturity, you feel there is more growth to come.”