Retail search volumes up 12% in Q3, latest BRC-Google Online Retail Monitor reveals

International search for UK retailers

International search for UK retailers

Retail search volumes grew 12% in the third quarter of 2013 compared with the same quarter a year earlier, according to the latest BRC-Google Online Retail Monitor.

Search volumes on tablet devices outpaced those on any other device, increasing 100% compared with growth on smartphone devices of 58% and a 10% decline in search volumes on desktops, researchers found.

Total search volumes from overseas consumers searching UK retailers increased by 23% in Q3 compared with the previous year, up from 16% in the previous quarter.

Helen Dickinson, director general, British Retail Consortium, said: “These figures highlight the strong foothold UK retailers have on the international stage, and the major potential for further growth. The growth in global customers searching for UK retailers online is up by an impressive 23% on the previous year and shows how the quality, range and accompanying service offered by ‘Brand Britain’ is something respected around the world. For the first time, we can also see which areas of UK retail rank most highly in these overseas searches, with clothing, beauty and department stores making up the top three.

“Closer to home, the data on category searches also chime closely with the trends revealed in our sales figures during this quarter. Many customers were searching for good deals on new technology releases, gadgets and games, mirroring the strong sales performance for these items in recent months.

“We’re again seeing strong growth for searches on tablets and smartphones, showing that these are playing an increasingly integral role in the customer journey. Retailers are continuing to invest significantly in their multi-channel offer, so they can provide customers fast and user-friendly ways to browse and buy whether in-store, at home or on the move.”

Peter Fitzgerald, retail director, Google, said: “The glorious summer weather that extended into July at times proved tough for online trading, as customers opted to enjoy the sunshine. However, the last two months of the quarter saw a drop in temperatures and led to overall queries growing at 12% in the third quarter. Again the DIY and gardening sectors were able to take advantage of the weather, with ‘garden furniture’ one of the most popular retail searches this quarter.

“We have also been able to take a deeper look into our international performance this quarter. Overseas interest in UK retailers is up at 23% year-on-year from 16% in the previous quarter. Our home-grown clothing brands and department stores are driving a lot of this growth followed by our beauty retailers. This is consistent with the international interest in UK luxury retailers that we have observed.” 

International focus

Overseas consumers searching for UK retailers Third Quarter 2013

Year-on-Year % change

  Total Search  Volumes Smartphone Search Volumes Tablet Search Volumes 
Russian Federation 54% 233% 112%
Netherlands 50% 174% 133%
South Korea 39% 67% 65%
France 36% 132% 134%
Germany 33% 151% 113%
Argentina 32% 237% 108%
United States 28% 47% 64%
Taiwan 22% 82% 25%
Ireland 15% 87% 112%
Brazil 15% 24% 43%
Mexico 12% 135% 94%
India 10% 116% 45%
Australia 8% 43% 47%
Japan -7% 42% 22%
Turkey -8% 110% 67%
China -9% 75% 20%


  • A number of countries demonstrated considerable rates of growth in overall UK retail searches including the Russian Federation (54%), Netherlands (50%), South Korea (39%), France (36%), Germany (33%) and Argentina (32%).


  • Argentina (237%) and the Russian Federation (233%) reported significant rates of growth on smartphone devices searching for UK retailers while France (134%) and the Netherlands (133%) reported strong growth on tablets
  • The number of UK consumers searching for overseas retailers rose 33% in the third quarter of 2013 compared with the same period last year, down from 51% in Q2 2013

Overseas consumers searching for UK retailers by category

Categories Third Quarter 2013

Year-on-Year % change

  Total Search  Volumes Smartphone Search Volumes Tablet Search Volumes 
Clothing 26% 90% 78%
Department Stores 25% 81% 99%
Health & Beauty 20% 78% 85%
Home & Garden 10% 62% 76%
Leisure goods 7% 42% 63%
  • The most popular sectors overseas consumers searched for using their smartphone devices were Clothing and Department Stores
  • Department stores and Health and Beauty reported the highest growth rates on tablet devices for overseas consumers searching UK retailers

 Top retail search terms (alphabetical order, Jul to Sep 2013)

All devices Smartphone
beds dresses
dresses engagement rings
engagement rings fifa 14 release date
fifa 14 grand theft auto 5
garden furniture gta 5
grand theft auto 5 gta v
gta 5 ipad
gta v ipad 5
ipad ipad mini
ipad 5 paddling pool
ipad mini playstation 4
ps4 ps4
shoes ps4 release date
wedding dresses wedding dresses
xbox xbox

Sector breakdown – Q3 2013 (Year-on-year % change)

Categories Third Quarter 2013

Year-on-Year % change

  Total Search  Volumes Smartphone Search Volumes Tablet Search Volumes Desktop search volumes
DIY/Gardening 32% 77% 139% 0.2%
Homewares 29% 77% 125% 1%
Food & Drink 26% 69% 120% -4%
Footwear 24% 71% 110% -8%
Health & Beauty 20% 64% 105% -12%
Furniture & Flooring 19% 53% 108% -8%
Clothing 17% 69% 102% -14%
Leisure Goods 9% 54% 105% -14%
Consumer Electronics 7% 44% 71% -11%

 The growth rate of tablet searches outpaced those for smartphone retail searches in every sector of retail.

  • Total retail search volumes growth was highest in the DIY/Gardening, Homewares, Food and Drink and Footwear sectors  
  • DIY/Gardening and Homewares were the fastest growing sectors on smartphone and tablet devices
  • Search volumes on desktops continue to decline in many sectors, with Clothing, Leisure Goods, Health & Beauty and Consumer Electronics all reporting double-digit falls 

Search Volume Breakdown – Monthly (Year-on-year % change)

  Year-on-Year % change
  Total Search  Volumes Smartphone Search Volumes Tablet Search Volumes Desktop Search Volumes
October 2012 14% 82% 253%
November 14% 81% 248%
December  13% 68% 220%
January 2013 15% 61% 207%
February 11% 57% 187%
March 21% 79% 199%
April 17% 65% 143%
May 15% 69% 141%  — 
June 13% 64% 116%  — 
July 8% 57% 105% -13%
August  14% 60% 109% -10%
September 14% 56% 87% -7%