If you had to stick a pin in a map to show where most online shoppers come from, where would you place it? London? Birmingham? Manchester? Well, yes, they all have plenty of Internet shoppers. However, the part of the UK with the highest proportion of Internet shoppers is the South West region – mostly Devon and Cornwall.

Now why is that, you may ask. After all, Devon and Cornwall are two of the most economically deprived parts of the UK. The average age of the population is much higher than in other parts of the country, so you’d expect lower Internet usage anyway. So why is so much online shopping going on there?

Convenience. If you want to go shopping in Devon or Cornwall you face longer journeys to the shops than if you live in Central London, for instance. You also have less variety than you get in the major cities. It also costs more. In London many people can walk to the shops – in much of the South West you have to travel by car, increasing the costs of shopping in particular for people on a pension.

The Internet, on the other hand, is much more convenient and has more variety. So it’s no surprise to find that in a similar way, online dating is most popular in Wales, where the population is low and the distance between people very high.

These two pieces of data are in a new survey from YouGov, published in a report just out. The study shows that the combination of distance to shops and the variety of shops available could well be impacting on decisions to shop online.

This means that emphasising convenience could be a good message for anyone running an online shop. It also means that targeting people in low population density areas may be more profitable than looking for the city traffic, because you get a higher proportion of buyers on those outlying areas.

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