December 12, 2012, 8:34 AM

U.K. holiday shoppers will shop from screens more than stores

U.K. consumers will do 57% of their shopping online, one poll finds.

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New research finds U.K. consumers will shop more online than in stores this holiday season. Consumers plan to do 57% of their holiday shopping online and 43% in a store, according to a survey of 2,000 consumers conducted online by research firm Vanson Bourne on behalf of business software provider NetSuite Inc. And 68% plan to spend more online than in shops this Christmas season.

The largest segment among respondents, 24%, plan to split their shopping evenly between stores and the web, and 0% plan to do all their Christmas shopping at bricks-and-mortar stores, the poll finds. Additionally, 7% plan to do 90% of their shopping online and 10% in store and 3% plan to do the reverse of 90% store shopping and 10% web shopping. Mobile commerce, which is posting strong holiday shopping growth in the U.S., will also be a significant shopping channel in the U.K., the study shows. Nearly 20% of consumers surveyed say they plan to shop through a mobile device this Christmas and one in 10 of consumers under the age of 35 say that a mobile device is their primary shopping tool of choice.

While only 39% of U.S. holiday shopping is expected to take place online this year, according to a survey this fall by the Shop.org unit of the National Retail Federation, British consumers appear to do more of their gift shopping on the web. A survey released in January by market research firm Intersperience found that the typical U.K. consumer had spent 188 pounds (US $303) on gifts online during the 2011 holiday season and only 166 pounds (US$267) in stores.

Another web-based poll of 2,000 U.K. online consumers from IMRG, an e-retail trade association in the U.K., and consulting firm Capgemini, finds 4% of U.K. shoppers plan to do all of their Christmas shopping online and 17% plan to purchase more than 75% of their gifts on the web. The largest groups of consumers plan to do 25% to 50% of their shopping online (28.91%) or make 50% to 75% of their holiday purchases via the web (28.26%)  Additionally, 84% of respondents say they typically turn to the web for research, comparison shopping and reviews before buying in a store. After analysing its survey results, IMRG forecasts 20% of U.K. holiday shopping to stem from mobile devices, a spokesman says.

“What this clearly reveals is that consumers have become very comfortable with the multichannel model, electing to spread their shopping over the whole range of devices and channels available to them as their situation requires,” the spokesman says. “Consumers still like to shop in-store and always will. The real story that the numbers don’t reveal is how influential digital channels are as part of the in-store process. Of (the shopping) done on the high street, a high percentage would have been informed by online research, either before-hand or during, to read reviews and make comparisons.”

When British shoppers do head online for gift-buying, they have a tendency to frequent their old standbys for purchases, another survey finds,  57% of U.K. shoppers will shop at their favorite retail sites rather than comb the web for the best prices, according to a poll of 1,000 U.K. online shoppers from e-commerce and digital marketing vendor EPiServer. Additionally, more than one-third of those polled are shopping more on the web this year and 44% have made purchases using a mobile device in the last six months.

Clothes and shoes are the most frequent online purchases (46%), closely followed by CDs/DVDs/video games (45%), and books/stationery (37%).

“Our research goes to show that the ease of online shopping has not killed brand loyalty,” says David Bowen, product manager at EPiServer. “Retailers shouldn’t just be trying to compete on price. Instead they ought to concentrate on delivering the best possible online experience to keep customers spending.”

The study also reveals that many consumers are comfortable expressing their opinions via online social networks. 33% of online shoppers have contacted a retailer through social media at least once in the last six months with a problem, question or complaint. Similarly, 35% have published or commented on a recent online purchase by using social media.

Other research out of Britain shows shoppers are heading to stores on the high street for shopping more often as the season progresses. For the week beginning Dec. 4, the number of British consumers out shopping increased 10.8% from a week earlier and 0.9% compared with the same week a year earlier, according to the Ipsos Retail Traffic Index, which tracks foot traffic to stores.

“Christmas shopping (in stores) stepped up a couple of gears last week,” says Tim Denison, director of Retail Intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance. “Three weeks out, the average rate of growth is 6% week-on-week, so a double digit rise is considerably stronger than in recent years. If shoppers carry on in this fashion, December may be better than we had expected. Many retailers have decided to discount early this year and shoppers have responded.”

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