UK Mobile Commerce Report

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As high street and online shopping have merged, this evolution has continued onto our mobile electronic devices. We are, as consumers, as comfortable buying on our smartphones and tablets, as we are desktops and laptops. Even more so, perhaps.

Download this report to learn more about today's mobile commerce environment in the UK.

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For the last five years, we at Episerver have been watching an evolution in the UK market. We’ve conducted our annual mobile commerce report to examine the UK mobile, retail and e-commerce industries, benchmarking the country’s top retailers against consumer expectations (and frustrations). In 2012 our findings highlighted the challenges of the new digital economy and the need for retailers to improve the quality of their content online. Our 2013 report accurately predicted the shift towards mobile-first retailing, emphasising the move away from laptops and towards shopping on the go. Then in 2014, our report highlighted a growing need for e-commerce providers to target their audiences through a cross-channel approach, emphasising the achievements of John Lewis in achieving this goal.

Following the success of these reports, we have expanded the scope of our research, opening our benchmark up to the global marketing community. This year we commissioned five independent surveys, researching 5,300 consumers across the UK, US, Benelux, the Nordics and Australia. These surveys analysed everything from international customer expectations through to preferences for the mobile experience in terms of layout and application design.

Having identified what it was that consumers looked for in a mobile site, we set about benchmarking the top 20 retailers from each region around the globe. This process examined the websites and applications of each retailer across both mobiles and tablets, comparing their current functionality to the expectations uncovered by our international research.

As the expectations of customers have grown increasingly stringent, so too have the criteria and scoring behind our benchmark report. The average score for mobile commerce experience provided by UK retailers has improved since 2014, however, this score still remains at only 57% (with some retailers scoring at little as 23%). This leaves the majority of UK retailers behind the curve when it comes to the latest mobile marketing strategies and tech. But this is no reason to be disheartened. As our international research shows, UK businesses are leading the way with some extremely innovative approaches to their online marketing. They also have a huge opportunity ahead of them, with mobile adoption in the UK reaching saturation, and UK consumers increasingly taking a mobile-first approach to the way they shop.

At a glance

  • 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase via their device’s browser
  • 65% of UK adults own both a tablet and a smartphone
  • 50% of UK respondents expect to be able to access and leave user reviews on a mobile app/ site
  • 11% increase in tablet ownership over the last 12 months
  • 39% of UK consumers buy travelrelated items on their phones
  • 50% of UK respondents place “on the high street” in their top three locations for using a mobile device
  • UK consumers are more likely to shop on a mobile 12% device than they were in 2014
  • 1 in 5 UK consumers expect a personalised mobile experience
  • Globally, the top purchase on a mobile device was clothing
  • Out of the five regions surveyed, the UK was the most likely to buy on a mobile device
  • Speed and convenience is universally considered the key trigger for buying on a mobile device

State of the global mobile market

Since our last report in December 2014, the number of people that own tablets in the UK has jumped to 76% – up 11% in the last 12 months. This makes consumers in the UK more likely to own a tablet than any of the other four regions surveyed. Most interesting from a retail perspective, 87% of UK tablet owners have used their device to make in-browser purchases – more than smartphone owners (79%).

While tablet devices have continued to grow in popularity, Apple maintains its stronghold over the UK market. As it stands, iPads are almost twice as popular as Android tablets throughout the UK. This is also true of Australia, where iPads represent 43% of the entire tablet market. Benelux and the Nordics both favour Android tablets, but only by a small percentage (5%).

Smartphone penetration is highest within Nordic countries, with 96% of the population owning a smartphone. Unlike other regions, where iPhone and Android are essentially neck and neck, both Benelux and the Nordics showed significantly higher adoption of Android smartphones. Interestingly, however, despite high mobile adoption, tablet ownership in these regions remains low.

  • 65% of UK consumers own both a smartphone and a tablet
  • 65% of tablet owners use their device to browse the web every day
  • 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase via their device’s browser
  • 87% of tablet users have made a purchase via their device’s browser

What the UK buys

The average UK consumer is 12% more likely to shop on a mobile device than they were during 2014, making e-commerce the fourth most common reason for UK consumers to use mobile browsers and apps. When compared to the rest of the world, UK customers are far more likely to shop on their mobile devices, with 56% having made a purchase on mobiles and tablets. Americans were the second most likely to shop on their mobiles (49%), followed by Australians (40%).

The most common purchase in the UK was apparel, with 40% of UK consumers having purchased clothes online in the last six months. This was closely followed by travelrelated purchases (39%) and music (31%). In 2014, the UK was most likely to purchase music, books and travel.

While the UK dominated the majority of product categories, American consumers were still more likely to use mobiles to purchase music and video games.

Top purchases on a mobile phone (UK)

  • Apparel
  • Travel
  • Music
  • Books

Why UK consumers browse on their mobile devices:

  1. Looking up directions
  2. Social networking
  3. Communicating w. friends & family
  4. Shopping
  5. Online banking

56% of UK respondents have made a purchase on their mobile or tablet


  • UK customers are the most likely to shop on a mobile device
  • Consumers around the world used their phones to purchase apparel above any other product
  • In the last year, music has slipped down the list of most common purchases.

Top tip: Don’t ignore Blackberry. The market may be much smaller, but – in percentage terms - Blackberry owners conduct more mobile shopping than any other smartphone demographic

Where the UK buys

UK consumers are most likely to access mobile websites from their home, with 66% of UK respondents ranking this location as the place they most commonly browse from their smartphone.

This was also true for UK tablet owners, with only 13% using their device to browse the web outside of their home. Once again, this highlights the need for retailers to take a mobile first approach, with consumers increasingly shunning their laptops and home computers to shop on smartphones and tablets instead.

When outside of the home, UK consumers were most likely to browse their smartphones while traveling or out shopping. With 50% placing “on the high street” in their top three locations for using a mobile device, this provides brands with a strong opportunity for mobile/in-store crossover experiences.

Outside of the home, each of the five regions used their mobile devices in varying locations. US consumers were the most likely to browse at the office or in their car, while those from Benelux and the Nordics were more likely to browse on public transport. As with the UK, Australian consumers conducted a significant portion of their mobile browsing on the high street.

50% of UK consumers place “on the high street” in their top three locations for using a mobile device

Done right, digital doesn’t kill high street shopping, it enhances it

- David Bowen, Director of Product Management for E-commerce

Why the UK buys

Across the board, “speed and convenience” was cited as the number one reason why consumers browse products on a mobile device rather than using a PC or going in store. While this was universally true across all five regions, it was particularly important for UK consumers, with 51% selecting it as their key reason for browsing on a mobile device.

In terms of specific promotional tactics, the UK, US and Australia are particularly susceptible to email offers, while consumers from the Nordics are the most likely to respond to text message promotions. Mobile coupons and application notifications are most effective amongst US audiences.

QR codes and NFC touch points have the least impact, and are actually considered less effective in 2015 than they were in 2014 by UK consumers. Email on the other hand has more than doubled in effectiveness. This resurgence of effective email marketing may be due to the increasing number of people who use email on mobile, with 67% of consumers now regularly checking their email on their smartphones.

Triggers for mobile browsing (UK)

  1. Speed and convenience
  2. Email offers
  3. Brand affinity
  4. Mobile coupons

What works where? (Mobile triggers around the world)

  • Australia: App notifications and Email offers
  • Nordics: Text messages
  • US: QR / NFC and Mobile coupons
  • UK: Brand affinity & Speed/ Convenience:
  • Benelux: Time pressure

Customer expectations

Around the rest of the world, consumers placed their expectations on user reviews and direct customer service, but were generally far more focused on responsive design than their UK counterparts. Consumers across the globe were also more than twice as likely to demand personalised content than they were social media integration. While the two experiences go hand in hand, marketers need to remember that social media logins are just as much about improving the customer’s experience as they are about harvesting data.

Top 5 UK mobile expectations

  1. 50% User reviews
  2. 44% Collection services
  3. 42% Easy and direct customer support
  4. 38% Automatic adaption of screen size
  5. 31% Location-based functions or map
  6. 42% of UK consumers demand in-app customer support

Customer frustrations

When it came to users’ frustrations, all five regions ranked slow loading times as their biggest annoyance. UK and US consumers were also particularly concerned by the amount of information that retailers requested, while those from Benelux and the Nordics were frustrated by a general lack of responsiveness.

Addressing these frustrations is vital for retailers, with 64% of UK consumers saying that they will abandon a site if it proves difficult to access. Even more worrying for retailers is that 27% of respondents claim that they will go straight to a competitor’s site to find an alternative.

What do you do if you experience difficulties accessing a mobile site?

  • 44% Leave the site
  • 23% Wait till I can access the site from my desktop
  • 19% Try a competitor
  • 4% Contact customer service
  • 4% Keep using the site
  • 2% Leave negative feedback on social media
  • 1% Other
  • 3% I haven’t experienced any difficulties

1 in 5 UK consumers expect a personalised mobile experience

47% of UK consumers agree that poor mobile design reduces the likelihood they’ll make a purchase

64% of UK consumers will abandon a site if it proves difficult to access

How UK retailers are performing

Last year our benchmark revealed that many UK retailers were still struggling to develop a seamless and sophisticated mobile experience, particularly across so many different operating systems and devices. This year we noticed a marked improvement, with the average overall score rising from 47% to 57% . There was also a significant increase in the number of fully responsive websites, rising from just one (Currys) in 2014 to eight in 2015. The number of tablet apps has also increased, with Apple now left as the only retailer not to provide an android-compatible app.

Best mobile retailer 2015

For the second year running, John Lewis is our highest scoring retailer for overall mobile experience. John Lewis provides a consistently great experience across all devices, having received scores of 8/10 and above for every category. This was especially noticeable on iPad, where the John Lewis app scored 10/10 on every point. Having addressed all of the basics (zoom features, swipe navigation, etc.), John Lewis went on to create a truly omnichannel experience. This not only managed to maintain consistent branding and quality across all devices, but even incorporated in-store crossover features such as Click and Collect.

In fact, John Lewis actually scored even higher in 2015 than it did in 2014; going from 75% to 84%, despite a tougher scoring system. John Lewis has clearly shown its commitment to innovation with the result of consistently good customer experience, as indicated by the massive gap between its score and the 56% average scored by our other top 20 UK retailers.

Best mobile website

Despite losing marks in the overall benchmark for not providing any Android compatible applications, the Apple mobile site was far superior to those of the other retailers. Rather than redirecting visitors to a separate, less searchengine-friendly site, the Apple desktop website is designed to responsively adapt to any mobile or tablet screen, and it does so without removing significant functionality

This is especially interesting given Apple’s previous reluctance to make the switch to mobile or responsive design. Despite being a huge leader in mobile devices, Apple was slow to make its website mobile friendly, only making the switch in late 2014, meaning it scored poorly in our 2014 benchmark.

The site is now easy to navigate and use, providing a clear front-page menu, as well as strong search capabilities. Rather than attempting to organise its products into numerous sub-menus (something that many retailers were guilty of attempting), Apple breaks its product base down into six simple categories.

The mobile site also benefits from a strong yet simple use of HTML5 animation, subtly enhancing the design while significantly improving the user experience.

Analysis: Four steps to an effective omnichannel approach

1. Balance unified experiences with device capabilities

When preparing their omnichannel approach, marketers have to walk a fine line between user experience and device capabilities. On the one hand, they should look to create unified experiences across all platforms; on the other, you must play to the specific strengths of each device or platform. As an example, many of the brands included in this benchmark opted to develop a single Android app for use across both tablets and mobiles. While this helped to create a seamless user experience, these apps ended up being stretched on larger tablet screens – a poor use of the additional screen space.

2. Invest in content

In the omnichannel age, engaging content is more vital than ever. As audiences increasingly flit between various applications, platforms and screens, it grows ever harder for marketers to maintain their attention. Informative and entertaining content offers the best solution to keeping your customers engaged throughout the buying cycle. By incorporating genuinely helpful content such as recipe suggestions, how-to videos and user guides, marketers not only maintain the interest of potential prospects, but can also encourage additional purchases throughout the process. John Lewis achieved this through the creation of an “inspiration & advice” section, offering videos and style guides to help encourage combined purchasing through aspirational content marketing. This ultimately helped the retailer to claim our number one spot for 2015.

3. Don’t be afraid to restructure

It’s all too easy for marketers to find themselves working in siloed teams. In order to develop a successful omnichannel strategy, businesses should not be afraid to mix up their teams and establish a wider point of view. Rather than having a web design team, a social media team and a mobile development team, businesses need to encourage collaborative working throughout all stages of the marketing process. This collaborative effort can then be overseen by a decisive – and brand conscious – marketing department.

4. Joined up marketing requires joined up tech

Omnichannel is just as much about finding the right technologies as it is about taking the right approach. In order for a customer’s journey to be truly seamless, marketers must ensure a tight integration between mobile, POS, customer data, content management and e-commerce platforms. Developing an omnichannel strategy is about more than just using multiple platforms, it’s about building a fully integrated marketing ecosystem. Think long and hard about the strategy you are looking to implement and then select the platforms that make it easiest to enact.

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