Verdict: online sales to hit £50bn by 2018 as shoppers increasingly enjoy the process

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E-retail is set to grow by almost 50% over the next five years to be worth over £50bn in 2018, when one pound in every seven spent on retail will be made online, according to new research from Verdict.

One of the key drivers for the growth is the fact more and more shoppers consider online shopping to be as enjoyable, or even more enjoyable, than traditional shopping. In a survey of over 10,000 online shoppers, only 4% more people considered physical shopping to be more enjoyable than online, compared to a 25% gap 18 months ago.

“Rather than push online spend outdoors, the rapid adoption of touch screen tablets and smartphones has moved online shopping into the living room,” said Verdict lead analyst Patrick O’Brien.

“Sixty seven per cent said they shopped from their living room, indicating second screening – browsing websites while watching TV – has had a major impact. This, together with the ability to browse on smartphones wherever you are, and social media, has made online shopping a much more immersive and interactive experience than it was only a few years ago, when more shoppers tended to be restricted to desktops typically located away from the living room.”

As physical retailers appear to be losing their advantage in ‘enjoyment’, they need to work harder on giving people reasons to enter their stores, through improved customer service, events and so on, said Verdict. Both men and 35–54 year olds already find online more enjoyable than physical stores, researchers found.

While mobile devices are playing a major role in the rise of showrooming – the use of smartphones to check prices of competitors while browsing in stores – their impact is also being felt in the home.

“Rather than making consumers agnostic about where they make their purchases, smartphones and tablets are used in stores mainly to check prices and product details. The idea that showrooming customers are wielding their smartphones in stores to purchase from rival retailers en masse is a myth,” said O’Brien.

Only 2% of online shoppers say they have purchased while at a retailer, but 97% say they shop online at home and 15% at work. Mobile phone users generally prefer to wait until they are on a secure and trusted network before committing to a purchase.

Commenting on Verdict’s findings, Shingo Murakami, managing director of the online retailer, Rakuten’s Play.com,said: “It’s interesting Verdict focused on enjoyment of different types of shopping, not merely how much people actually bought either in-store or online.

“The findings are a call to action for retailers to ensure that shopping online on their site is enjoyable, memorable and fun, to keep customers coming back to their brand rather than being drawn to competitors’ sites.

“For shoppers the early days of e-commerce were solely about convenience and finding the best price, but now the rise of smartphones and tablets enables retailers to provide immersive and interactive experiences and consumers are spending more time browsing and buying online as a result.

“To put it simply, shopping has always been a form of entertainment and this is becoming more apparent as the technology that supports online shopping improves and develops.

“For many years retailers have struggled to bring the personalised and engaging experience of the bricks-and-mortar shop on to their website, but the balance is now shifting with the digital experience rivalling and sometimes even surpassing the in-store.

“With Christmas on the horizon, retailers will need to go the extra mile to ensure that the Christmas shopping list doesn’t become a chore – providing a fun and fulfilling experience will be the key to encouraging customers to return in 2014.”