BRC-Google Online Tetail Monitor Q2 2011: Mobile retail searches drive online boom

In the second quarter of 2011, total retail search volumes grew by 27% compared with the same quarter a year earlier. The increase was driven by a rise in mobile search volumes of 216% year-on-year. The growth of retail search volumes for multi-channel retailers (usually those using stores and the internet) reached 14% in the second quarter of 2011 compared with 21% for pure online retailers. The number of overseas consumers searching for UK retailers grew by 34% in the second quarter of 2011 compared with the same quarter a year earlier. The number of UK consumers searching for overseas retailers grew by 76% in the second quarter of 2011 compared with the same period a year earlier. London comprised 36% of all retail search volumes in the UK.

Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said: "While the retail sector as a whole is going through a difficult period, the boom in online retail continues. The star performer is mobile, with the number of retail searches being carried out on smart phones and tablets more than trebling for this quarter compared with the same period last year. Consumers are always looking for more convenient ways to shop. Retailers are making m-commerce easier all the time by offering mobile optimised websites, apps and transactional mobile platforms.

"There's clear evidence of how the changing seasons affect what people search for online. Garden furniture and DIY are high on the list of top 10 retail searches. Searches for electricals - such as the iPad2 and kindle - are also common, probably as shoppers compare prices and look for deals."

Peter Fitzgerald, Retail Director, Google, said: "Q2 was an interesting quarter for retail searches online. Volumes were down in April as the warm weather and bank holidays took their toll, but picked up again in May with the return of cooler weather. However, mobile searches remained constant throughout the quarter, largely unaffected by the changing temperatures. This is unsurprising given the 'always on' nature of mobile users. In Consumer Electronics, new devices were all the rage. Searches for the iPad 2 which launched in March were among the highest in Q2, as were searches for the iPhone 5 which is set to launch in September of this year. Top Apparel searches in Q2 included wedding dresses as we entered the wedding season in the UK, while garden furniture featured among the top searches in the Home category."
Ed Stevenson, European Managing Director of Marin Software, commented: "With the amount of smartphones and tablets distributed set to overtake that of laptops and desktops this year, it's no surprise that there has been such a surge in consumers using their handsets to make purchases online. Mobile search has clearly hit an inflection point and there is an opportunity for paid search advertisers in the retail sector, which they simply can't ignore.  
"However, despite the fact 12% of all search queries are being performed on mobile devices, advertiser spend is lagging behind with only 2% of all search spend going towards mobile search. This disconnect shows that advertisers have an opportunity as they can acquire customers at a lower cost than desktop search. The key thing we recommend to advertisers is that they should treat mobile as if it were a new search engine. Many advertisers are already showing up in mobile search rankings as a result of their existing desktop campaigns, however, by ensuring that their desktop and mobile campaigns are run separately they gain granular control through mobile specific bid strategies and device specific creative.
"With so many mobile users performing searches on-the-go, consumers expect more from their mobile experience. To stay ahead of the competition, retailers should be evaluating what pages look like on major smartphones such as the iPhone and Blackberry - and make sure they're appearing correctly. The user's experience is the most important thing, yet consumers are often forced to scroll back and forth through retail products when this practice really should be as easy and manageable as possible. Searching on mobile is showing no signs of abating. Now is the time for retailers to take notice of this important medium and both allocate the advertising budget it deserves, and make mobile browsing simpler or else consumers will be looking at competitors mobile sites to make purchases."
Simon Walker, Director, Product Management at Stibo Systems, said: "The new figures released by the British Retail Consortium demonstrate that retailers cannot afford to ignore the power of mobile. A 216 % rise in the past year shows how customer habits are changing and should come as a warning call to retailers. Customers are increasingly turning to mobile and tablet devices as part of a general lifestyle shift towards digital, therefore companies need to ensure not only that their websites are mobile-friendly, but that their content is consistent across all channels, in order to avoid haemorrhaging customers.
"While it is great that mobile and tablet searches remain constant, unlike in-store purchases,  without detailed product information and real-time updates, retailers risk losing customer trust and loyalty. A poor website with lack of product information could deter consumers from making a purchase and can potentially have a negative impact on the bottom line of a retailers' business. If retailers are able to provide good mobile websites, with detailed, consistent product information and good search capabilities, it is likely that the number of retail searches will continue to rise."

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