January 11, 2017, 3:21 PM

UK online sales increase 9.5% in Q4

December e-commerce sales increased 7.2% in the United Kingdom thanks to a late spending surge, but the closer it got to Christmas, the less likely shoppers were to buy using mobile apps.

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Online sales growth in the United Kingdom didn’t crack double digits during the holiday season as it did in the United States, but that’s not causing despair.

Data released by the British Retail Consortium-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for the fourth quarter shows online sales grew by 9.5% year over year during the quarter ended Dec. 31. For December alone, UK online sales grew 7.2%, half the growth rate of 15.1% in December 2015, BRC says. Store sales declined 1.2% in the October-December period and posted an unspecified decline in December, according to BRC data.

“After three months of double-digit growth for online sales, December saw the third-slowest growth rate of 2016 at 7.2%,” British Retail Consortium CEO Helen Dickinson said. “At first glance this may appear a disappointing figure, but with December taking the second-highest volume of online sales in the year, after November, this makes it an extremely tough comparable period. So overall, this is a relatively solid performance.”

In the U.S., e-commerce sales during the November-December holiday period increased about 11% to a record $91.7 billion from $83.0 billion in 2015, according to Adobe Inc.’s Adobe Digital Index. On desktop and laptops, web sales increase 11.9% to $63.1 billion from $56.4 billion in 2015, data from web measurement firm comScore Inc. shows.

A late, Christmas-week surge helped boost U.K. online sales for December. Online sales accounted for 24.3% of non-food sales in December compared with 22.6% in December 2015, bringing the 12-month average for e-commerce penetration to 21.7%, BRC says.

“There was a shift in spending toward the end of the month compared with last year, and a slow start to the festive trading period was offset by a spending spree during the Christmas week,” Dickinson said. “Shopping online is becoming increasingly popular during the festive month. The channel won its greatest share of December sales to date, with nearly a quarter of all purchases being made online. No doubt this was partly due to customers being able to receive deliveries right up to the two days before Christmas, thanks to retailers extending their delivery guarantees this year.”

In mid-December, U.K. e-retail association Interactive Media in Retail Group projected consumers would spend 805 million pounds ($1.00 billion) online on Christmas Day, up about 10.6% from 728 million pounds in 2015. IMRG, which has not released full holiday 2016 data yet, bases its estimate on its online sales data and retail site traffic volume data from SimilarWeb.

On Black Friday, a shopping holiday that’s only gained traction in the U.K. in the past few years, U.K. consumers spent an estimated 1.23 billion pounds ($1.54 billion) online on Nov. 25 compared with 1.10 billion pounds on Black Friday 2015, according to IMRG. That 12% increase fell short of projected 16% year-over-year growth for Black Friday. Consumers spent an estimated 6.45 million pounds ($8.05 billion) on U.K. online retail sites during the Monday-to-Cyber-Monday week of Nov. 21-28, IMRG says, about 5% lower than the projected 6.77 billion pounds ($8.45 billion) for that seven-day period.

During the holiday season, Black Friday reigned supreme as a leading day for shopping in mobile apps, at least in the United States, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, according to mobile marketing analytics vendor AppsFlyer, which looked at 15 million purchase events across 500 shopping apps in the U.S. and Western Europe during the fourth quarter. In the U.K., consumer shopping activity within mobile apps on Black Friday stayed close to the daily average for the fourth quarter, AppsFlyer says.

U.S. shoppers on Apple’s iOS operating system were 120% more active on mobile shopping apps on Black Friday than they were on an average day during the fourth quarter, and Android users were 80% more active, AppsFlyer’s data finds. Cyber Monday also proved busy from a mobile shopping perspective, with iOS shoppers in the U.S. 105% more active than normal, and Android shoppers 65% more likely to shop via mobile apps.

Shoppers in the U.S. and Western Europe were less likely to buy using a mobile app the later it got in the holiday season, AppsFlyer writes. “Consumers were less inclined to take chances with delivery so close to the holiday: on Dec. 22-24, there were 30% fewer purchases than the quarterly average,” AppsFlyer writes. “The iOS difference was 40% while the Android difference was only 25%.”

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