Smartphone coffee

There can no longer be any doubt about how much UK consumers love to shop online, says Chris Boaz, but this choice to shop on their smartphones wasn’t an immediate consumer shift.

British shoppers account for nearly one third (29 per cent) of all online purchases in Europe. In addition to this, they also spend the most via mobile versus other European countries, accounting for £27 billion of purchases.

However, this choice to shop on their smartphones wasn’t an immediate consumer shift. It is worth noting that it was just ten years ago that the iPhone was introduced to the world and despite its early, widespread adoption, mobile commerce was initially struggling.

From PCA Predict’s own data, which can measure ecommerce transactions across the UK, we’ve had a front row seat in being able to measure how people’s habits have changed so much in such a short period.

Despite 62 per cent of the UK population having access to a smartphone in 2013, it might be somewhat surprising to hear that, from our data, that year desktops still accounted for 74 per cent of ecommerce transactions in the UK. In fact, most surprising of all is that tablets - at 15 per cent of transactions - were actually more commonly used than smartphones when making a purchase in 2013.

As retailers know too well, these days are long since behind us. In 2017, according to IMRG, the digital “tipping point”, where online retail sales on mobile devices overtook desktop, finally took place last year. It found that smartphones and tablets accounted for 51 per cent of UK online retail sales.

UK Consumers Forego Bedtime To Shop

However what might surprise retailers most of all is the time of day UK consumers are making their decision to purchase. Using our Ecommerce Trends tool, which can track purchases on an hourly basis, we’ve uncovered a little known fact about British shoppers.

They love to browse and shop on their mobile in the very early hours of the morning. From our data, during the workweek UK consumers are most likely to be browsing retailers’ websites on their mobiles between midnight and 6am. The most web traffic from smartphone shoppers (at 56% of UK ecommerce traffic) comes at the incredibly unsociable hours of 4-5am. Meanwhile, during the weekend, British consumers are again browsing on their smartphone in the early hours, with 3am being the most likely time, based on web traffic data.

So what are the implications of this startling fact for retailers?

Given the late hour that consumers are shopping at, it is probably correct to assume they may be quite short on patience and have a lower-than-normal attention span. This means, in my opinion, that the checkout experience is more crucial than ever. Nearly half (47 per cent) of consumers told us they would abandon mcommerce purchases if the checkout process took too long. However, due to the late hour that UK mobile shoppers are browsing at it makes it essential that your checkout process is as slick and streamlined to use as possible.

One way to achieve a seamless experience quite quickly is by using address verification technology. As a retailer, it is important to realise that it is still quite easy for a consumer to make a mistake when manually entering their delivery details on their smartphone. Despite the ubiquity of mobile shopping now, it still suffers from quite a simple problem; there is still the lingering issue of entering incorrect details due to “fat fingers” as a desktop keyboard is still the best way to input information.

Couple this with so many shoppers now using their smartphones at such late hours when mistakes are more likely to happen - this means that a retailer’s customer care team may have to deal with quite a few unhappy shoppers wondering where their deliveries have disappeared to. Small to medium-sized retailers can ill afford this significant drain on their customer care team’s precious time too.

On the most basic level, address verification technology simplifies and speeds up the checkout process by minimising the amount of manual typing needed. The technology has also advanced to such a level that it now features what is called “fuzzy-error correcting”. This smart piece of tech automatically identifies and fixes common errors and typos, and location biasing, which tailors search results to those closest to a customer’s location, eliminating confusion related to multiple same-named streets in different cities. Importantly, from a retailer’s perspective the technology is very simple to implement into existing ecommerce websites too.

But address verification is actually much more than the technology it offers. For the consumer it eliminates their biggest frustration when shopping via a smartphones: inputting correct information. For businesses it saves time, money and can actually positively impact upon customer conversions.

By 2020, it is estimated a stunning £42.5 billion of the UK’s ecommerce purchases, which equates to roughly two-thirds of the total, will be made on a smartphone. Given the scale of this, those retailers who commit to making the checkout experience as easy as possible, aided by address verification, will be well placed to take advantage of this huge opportunity.

Chris Boaz, is the head of marketing at PCA Predict, (a GBG company)