The explosive growth in hand-held computing devices is proving to be good news for UK online retailers looking to sell overseas, according to a survey commissioned by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
US advertising giant Google may not be doing much for the UK's tax income - according to press reports it clocked up sales of £2.1bn in the UK last year but paid a mere £5m in tax to the UK tax man - but its search engine is proving very successful in driving international customers to UK retailers' web sites, the survey indicates.
Retail search volumes from non-UK locations grew 57% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2012, data from Google shows. Total retail search volumes were up by a less impressive 11% year-on-year, with growth driven by a 132% increase in retail searches performed on hand-held mobile devices - mainly smartphones and tablets.
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During the January sales, search volumes on mobile phones and tablets were at their highest, peaking on January 2nd, 2012, data from Google reveals. There was also a spike in retail searches on hand-held communication devices two weeks before Mother's Day (March 4th).
In the first quarter, total search volumes grew at their fastest rate for health & beauty and food & drink related items, up 21% year-on-year. For mobile, growth in search volumes was highest for food and drink, up by 172% year-on-year.
The ability to whip out the smartphone and do a bit of on the spot price comparison research or find out where the nearest clothes shop is seems to be boosting Google's search volumes.
"Being able to check competitors' goods and prices while they're in a store is a big part of the continuing boom in retail searches via mobiles and tablets. It's a sign of these tough times that this isn't restricted to major purchases - the biggest growth in mobile retail searches is on food and drink as people compare different offers," noted Stephen Robertson, the Director General of the BRC.
"The first quarter of 2012 provided more evidence of the growing importance of mobile," said Peter Fitzgerald, Retail Director at Google.
Mobile retail queries as a percentage of total retail queries more than doubled from 8% in the first quarter of 2011 to 17% in the opening three months of 2012.
"Countries such as Mexico and Pakistan drove the highest overall year-on-year growth in search interest for UK retailers; 135% and 101% year-on-year respectively, while interest also grew in the BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India and China] countries," Fitzgerald revealed.
"These statistics demonstrate the growth potential of online for UK retailers and the part retail can play in building a recovery based on exports, given the right conditions and a genuinely free-trade world market place," the BRC's Director General, Stephen Robertson added.
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