UK consumers and retailers lead Europe’s online shopping boom, delivery specialist Hermes shows

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British consumers are taking the lead across Europe and spending substantially more online than those in France and Germany as the online shopping phenomenon continues to gather speed. According to the latest industry research, twice as many Brits (27%) have shopped online during the last three months than the French (14%) and nearly three times more than the Germans (10%).

These are some the findings of the fifth annual industry research from consumer delivery specialist Hermes, which included responses from 4000 consumers across the three countries, including 2000 in the UK.

Growth in online shopping

The 2014 Parcel Deliveries Usage and Attitude Survey showed that retailers are now in a position to profit from soaring confidence in online shopping with 42% of British consumers planning to shop online even more over the next year, compared to 30% of French and 28% of Germans.

Shoppers are also expanding their horizons with 73% of Brits stating they are increasing the number of retailers they shop from, again ahead of the French (64%) and Germans (58%).

The survey showed that a key factor behind this growth is the improvement in delivery services across the three countries. Around three quarters of consumers across all markets stated that the delivery services being used by retailers are improving all the time. Nearly two thirds of respondents have had to change delivery details for goods ordered online so the ability to do this via a website was seen to be important.

Home delivery was once again by far the most popular service across all countries although delivery to a parcel shop rated well in Germany. However attitudes towards cost varied with Brits willing to pay substantially more for same day delivery (£4.60) which is around 80% and 40% more than the amount that shoppers in France and Germany were happy to pay respectively.

Multi channel and multi device

The rise in online shopping has been assisted by the growing accessibility of smartphones and tablets. More than twice as many Brits are now buying regularly via these devices (23%), compared to Germany (11%) and France (9%). A laptop was still the most popular way of buying across all three countries.

It also seems that one device is not enough as the survey also shows that half of the respondents across all markets use on average two different devices to access the Internet each evening. Therefore, retailers need to take full advantage by investing in responsive websites which work well across all devices.

Carole Woodhead, CEO of Hermes, said: “The research shows that the online shopping industry continues to grow at a prolific pace and consumer confidence has rocketed and I am pleased to see that investment in good delivery options has played a key role in this. It presents online retailers with a huge opportunity to continue to expand their customer base and increase revenue.”

Shopping overseas

The confidence currently being displayed by consumers in online shopping is also evident when it comes to purchasing items from overseas retailers. Around 84% of UK and France-based shoppers have ordered from a foreign retailer’s website compared to just 67% of the German population. Meanwhile, the results show that online retailers in the UK are doing a fantastic job attracting buyers from abroad. Well over a third of German and French shoppers have bought from the UK, with the country beating China and the USA to top the poll. This illustrates the strength of the UK’s retail brands and the investment companies like Hermes has made in developing international delivery networks.

However, delivery companies and retailers need to do more to drive down the cost of delivery overseas. Across all markets, half of the respondents who had not shopped online overseas said it was down to high delivery charges. The perceived difficulty of returning goods also scored highly.

Earlier this year Hermes launched the most comprehensive international delivery solution on the market, enabling retailers seamless access to consumers in 20 European countries. It also provides a simple and effective cross border returns service designed to overcome the reticence of international customers to buy from overseas websites due to concerns about returning unwanted items.

Returns are key

 A free and reliable returns service is what consumers across all three countries want as it was deemed by far the “most appealing feature” when it came to delivery services (around 25%). Interestingly nearly half of Brits (44%) blamed retailers for the high levels of returns stating that if the product information was clearer online they would not need to return as many items as they do.

Woodhead said: “The research provided valuable insight into consumer preferences particularly with regard to returns. At Hermes we recently launched a new 3 Click Returns service to address this issue. The service allows consumers to manage their parcel returns quicker than ever before, which can then be sent via Hermes’ 3-day* courier delivery or 2 day* myHermes ParcelShop drop-off service.”