Why the UK leads the way in online shopping

E-Commerce shopping cartIt’s official…! British people are the leading online shoppers in the world…! According to a report from OFCOM each of us spends an average of £1,083 a year online, almost £250 more than our nearest rivals, the Australians. Whichever way you cut the data, we are the shopping kings of the Internet.

But the question is…why? What is it about Britons that makes us so attached to online shopping? It can’t be the convenience of it, because it is just as convenient for anywhere else in the world. Indeed with the enormous travel distances in American and Australia you might have thought they’d prefer to do more Internet shopping than us.

There are two features of shopping in the UK however which stand out as peculiarly British. Much retail in the UK is awash with abysmal customer service. True, independent local stores do go out of their way to please customers, but the average High Street in Britain is just that – average. And there is another peculiarly British thing about shopping in the UK – prices. The word “rip off” were invented for us it seems.

Online two things stand out – lower prices and improved service levels. Admittedly online there is still some shoddy service, but the low attention spans and the highly competitive nature of e-commerce mean that we can move from shop to shop with much more ease than we can in the real world. As a result, online retailers have to respond to survive. And thanks to price comparisons and our knowledge that in general the Internet is cheaper than the real world then online retailers have to give keen prices.

So why do we flock to the Internet in Britain? Because in general we get better service and lower prices than in the High Street.

Whenever I talk to retailers they are keen to understand how they can make their online presence as close as possible to their bricks-and-mortar stores. But I think they need to flip that thinking. Their real world shops would do so much better if they made bricks and mortar stores operate much more like the Internet – with better service and better prices.

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One Response to Why the UK leads the way in online shopping

  1. G 14th December 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    Hi Graham
    I think you’re spot on with this, but stop short on some of the major factors…
    Amazon and some other online stores are unencumbered by corporation tax.
    Petrol prices (much of it tax) and parking costs (another tax) here are some of the highest in the world.
    Business rates are high – taxation without representation cost us America; now it’s playing a part in decimating our high streets.
    Government needs to address all sides – get the likes of Google, Apple and Microsoft paying tax; and stop expecting small high street businesses to fill the gap… or maybe the small high street businesses need to group together and pay for more political support…