By Daniel Hunter

Total retail search volumes grew 11% in the first quarter of 2012 compared with the same quarter a year earlier. The increase was driven by a rise in mobile/tablet search volumes which grew by 132% year-on-year.

Total search volumes from overseas consumers rose by 57% in Q1 compared with the previous year. During the January sales, search volumes on mobile/tablets were at their highest, peaking on the 2 January 2012. There was a noticeable peak in retail searches on mobile/tablet devices two weeks before Mother's Day - 4 March.

In the first quarter, total search volumes grew at their fastest rate for health and beauty and food and drink related items, up 21% year-on-year. For mobile, growth in search volumes was highest for food and drink, up by 172% year-on-year.

"Squeezed household budgets mean customers are turning more and more to the internet to research what they're buying and look for best value," Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said.

"Being able to check competitors' goods and prices while they're in a store is a big part of the continuing boom in retail searches via mobiles and tablets. It's a sign of these tough times that this isn't restricted to major purchases — the biggest growth in mobile retail searches is on food and drink as people compare different offers.

"The number of overseas consumers searching for UK retailers has soared 57 per cent for this quarter compared with the same period a year earlier. Internet search traffic from developing countries like Mexico and Pakistan has more than doubled. These statistics demonstrate the growth potential of online for UK retailers and the part retail can play in building a recovery based on exports, given the right conditions and a genuinely free-trade world market place."

Peter Fitzgerald, Retail Director, Google, said the data showed the growing importance of mobile technology.

"The first quarter of 2012 provided more evidence of the growing importance of mobile," he said.

"While overall retail queries grew 11% year-on-year, mobile experienced exponential growth, growing 132% year-on-year in Q1. Mobile retail queries as a percentage of total retail queries also followed a similar trajectory, more than doubling from 8% in Q1 2011 to 17% in Q1 2012.

"The busiest days online, overall and on mobile, for Q1 2012 came in the first few days of January as customers searched for bargains and post-Christmas discounts in the January sales period. The first quarter also underscored the importance of retailer brands developing their international presence.

"Overseas searches for UK retail brands grew 57% year-on-year in Q1. Countries such as Mexico and Pakistan drove the highest overall year-on-year growth in search interest for UK retailers; 135% and 101% year-on-year respectively, while interest also grew in the BRIC countries."

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