The UK consumers are more willing to buy online, as a new Ofcom report reveals. This applies to mobile commerce as well. A part of the explanation could be the fact that UK customers are paying lower prices for their communications services than many consumers across the world. This makes the UK the best located country in Europe to exploit the next wave of mobile Internet. However, the amount of online transactions remains low.
The UK is already a nation of online shoppers
Ofcom’s sixth International Communications Market report into the global communications market presents that eight in ten UK Internet users (79 per cent) said they had ordered goods or services online in 2010, that's more than in any other European country, with just 27 per cent of consumers in Italy claiming to had done so. The UK Internet users were also more likely to visit retail websites online than other countries, with nine in ten (89 per cent) claiming to have done so in 2011. Consumers in Italy and Spain prefer to window-shop.
UK consumers not only shop more online, they also spent more time and money on retail sites – an average of 84 minutes in January 2011, compared with around 20 minutes for consumers in Poland and Italy. The value of B2C e-commerce per head in the UK was £939 in 2010, up 21% from £773 in 2009. Australia and the US had the highest values after the UK, growing 21% to £792 and 14% to £559 respectively.
The fastest-growing market in retail websites was Russia (59% of the Internet users), gaining 16 percentage points during the year to January 2011. Despite such growth, the reach of Russian retail websites remained the lowest among the comparator countries, followed by Italy (70% reach) and Poland (72%). Internet users in Poland recorded the lowest average amount of time spent on retail websites (20 minutes).
Smartphones take-up driving the mobile Internet access
The use of the Internet on a mobile phone has doubled in most countries since 2008, driven by a combination of the launch of new devices designed for the Internet services use, specific mobile Internet applications use, the availability of high speed mobile networks and low-cost data plans.
Smartphones ownership nearly doubled in the UK between February 2010 and August 2011 (from 24 per cent to 46 per cent) and the take-up was higher in the UK than in any the other European country surveyed (France: 35 per cent, Germany: 32 per cent, Italy: 40 per cent and Spain: 45 per cent).
The number of people using their mobiles to go online was also higher in the UK with nearly half (46 per cent) of the UK's Internet users using their phones to go online in October 2011. Knowing that surfing the Internet is more convenient on a smartphone than on many other mobile phones, this might be a logical result.
The UK leads in mobile online shopping but it remains a minor activity
Above we concluded consumers are often shopping online and using their smartphones to use the Internet. In a longer time period analysts are expecting an increase in mobile commerce as well. But is that really happening?
Using a mobile phone to visit online auction websites such as eBay, and accessing online retail websites, are still very much minor activities among European mobile subscribers.
According to data from comScore, between 3.4% and 6.7% of mobile subscribers in France, Germany, Italy and Spain engaged in either of these mobile retail activities in May 2011.
However, mobile subscribers in the UK have been much more receptive to this way of shopping, with 10.5% having visited an auction site and 9.2% an online retail site. Across our comparator countries, penetration levels of auction sites on mobile phones is slightly higher than of online retail sites. The nature of auctions can require bidders to check the status a lot more wherever they are, or to make another bid before the auction ends.
Are you ready for the mobile user?
The Ofcom research mainly focuses on the user behavior. Another question might be whether webshops are ready to welcome the mobile users. Before we had presented most of the retail websites aren't accessible with a mobile device. Still a lot of work needs to be done to turn the already eagerly mobile surfing consumer into a buying one.