E-Commerce in the UK: A Closer Look at Online Shoppers

This week, Visa raised concern that 2017 could is set to be a rough year for consumer spending in the UK, even as the holiday shopping season gets into full swing. Brands, advertisers, and industry analysts are, accordingly, closely watching sales numbers for brick-and-mortar retailers as well as e-commerce outlets. Verto Analytics took a look at the behaviours and demographics for online shoppers in the UK (among adults, ages 18 and above) to better understand which devices they prefer to shop on, what times of day they shop, and more about who online shoppers really are. Interested in learning more? Download the full report here.

Online Shopping on PCs Rules

Online shopping is nearly a ubiquitous activity in the UK: more than 96% of the adult online population (approximately 41.2 million UK adults) visit online shopping properties each month, spending an average of 14 minutes a day on e-commerce websites and apps. PCs still dominate online shopping behaviours – nearly 57% of all e-commerce activity still takes place on PCs, compared to 32% on smartphones and 11% on tablets. In other words, people spend 1.8 times more time shopping on a PC than on mobile devices. However, men rely much more on PCs for shopping (accounting for 71% of their time), spending 3.7 times more time using them than a mobile device.

However, device usage varies heavily across different age groups and genders. Older users – those ages 55 and above – vastly prefer larger screens to shop online, accounting for 42% of all time spent on e-commerce sites on PCs and 25% of all time spent on e-commerce sites via tablet.

Shoppers between the ages of 35-44 are the most device-agnostic: they spread their device usage more evenly across PCs and smartphones, while some of the youngest consumers show a strong preference for shopping via smartphones: shoppers under the age of 35 account for nearly 50% of all time spent on e-commerce sites on smartphones.

Single-Device vs. Cross-Device Shoppers

Yet despite the rise of the cross-device consumer, nearly half (45.5%) of all shoppers in the UK access e-commerce properties through one device only (and these numbers mirror what we’ve seen in other consumer behaviours, such as interaction with news content). One-quarter of all consumers in the UK still access e-commerce properties exclusively via PC.

However, consumers averaged 1.7 devices used to access shopping content, indicating that cross-device shopping is likely to continue to rise.

Who Shops When?

Regardless of the device used, online shopping rises steadily over the course of a day from 3am to 1pm and then fluctuates (although broadly rising) until 7pm before dropping off for the rest of the night. PCs account for the most online shopping activity each hour of the day, peaking between 7-9pm and 10am-noon. Meanwhile, mobile shopping peaks from 4-10pm (excluding a lull between 5-6pm) and tablet shopping between 5-8pm.

The most popular time of day for online shopping is 6-7pm, but actual activity is heaviest between 6-9pm. The average time spent per person on e-commerce content (indicating a higher level of engagement) peaks between 6pm and 9pm. In terms of when online shopping is heaviest (i.e. how much time is being spent) there is also quite a difference across age groups, ranging from 11am-noon among 25-34 year olds to 8-9pm among 18-24 and 35-44 year olds.

For brands and advertisers, understanding your target customers – and especially their daily digital lives and online habits – is crucial for reaching them at all points along their path to purchase. As Verto Analytics data shows, online shopping behaviour varies greatly across different age groups and genders. In order to reach the right audience, you need to understand these subtleties in order to identify how and when to influence them on their path to purchase.

Interested in reading more about our insights on consumer behaviour and e-commerce? Download the full report, E-Commerce in the UK: Online Shopping Habits of UK Consumers.