By Marcus Leach

Total retail search volumes grew 24% in the fourth quarter compared with the same quarter a year earlier. The increase was driven by a rise in mobile/tablet search volumes which grew by 169% year-on-year.

On Christmas Day mobile/tablet searches accounted for 26% of overall retail searches. Pre-Christmas searches peaked on 4 December for mobile/tablet devices, and a week earlier, on Monday 30 November, for all online retail searches.

In the fourth quarter, total searches for food and drink related items had the fastest rate of growth, up 29% year-on-year, while on mobile devices searches grew fastest for homeware products, up by 189% year-on-year.

"For a fourth successive quarter, the number of retail searches from smartphones and tablets has nearly trebled compared with the previous year," Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said.

"During December, one in five retail searches came from a mobile device and on Christmas Day this increased to more than one in four. Hard-pressed consumers are searching more for bargains and using technology to seek out the best offers.

"The significant growth in searches from countries such as Brazil and Russia shows the opportunities presented by emerging economies. For many retailers, tapping into these booming consumer markets is an increasingly important strategy for growth."

Peter Fitzgerald, Retail Director, Google, said tablet searches were by and far the top performing.

"Mobile was the standout winner this Christmas with search volumes reaching unprecedented levels, growing from 7 per cent of searches in Q4 2010, to account for over 20 per cent of all retail searches a year later," he said.

"Even in categories like Consumer Electronics, where growth slowed to just 3 per cent in Q4, mobile/tablet searches were still up an incredible 95 per cent year-on-year. The usage patterns on the different devices are especially interesting.

"Over Christmas desktop search volumes peaked on Monday 5 December and saw a marked drop thereafter. Mobile/tablet volumes remained consistent later into the month, peaking at the weekends, with many consumers likely to have been searching on their devices while out and about."

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