UK retail search volumes rise 9 per cent in second quarter

Tablet searches accounted for 40 per cent of the mobile/tablet total.

Shoe-in: search volumes of footwear items grew by 19 per cent year on year. Photograph: Getty Images

Total retail search volumes in the UK increased by 9 per cent in the second quarter of 2012, compared to the same period last year, according to the figures released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) today.

The growth was driven by mobile/tablet search volumes, which grew by 113 per cent on a year-over-year basis.

Total search volumes from overseas consumers rose by 42 per cent, compared with the same period last year. There was a noticeable peak in retail searches on mobile/tablet devices on the bank holiday on 7 May.

During the quarter, search volumes of footwear items grew by 19 per cent year on year. For mobile searches, growth in search volumes was highest for food and drink, up by 163 per cent year on year.

Stephen Robertson, director general of BRC, said:

For the first time, we can see searches from tablets are responsible for 40 per cent of all retail searches from mobile devices, a very substantial share. This reflects the growth in shoppers using tablets at home instead of a laptop or PC. Mobile searches overall are booming and the biggest growth area within that is for food and drink, showing smart consumers are increasingly using new devices to price check before buying their groceries.

Around a fifth of all online spending is on food and drink but only a small proportion – 4 per cent – of total grocery spending happens online. With non-food goods dominating online spending, there are huge opportunities for food retailers to expand their internet businesses and this will be a big area of competition in the coming months and years.

Peter Fitzgerald, retail director at Google, said:

Q2 was a quarter with lots of talking points and events – the weather, the Jubilee and the European Championships. Weather conditions negatively affected many retailers in April, but retail query growth in April was strong. This shows that people were still online and shopping. Q2 was also another big quarter for mobile.

Some of the top days for mobile queries were around the Q2 bank holidays. This demonstrates two central trends around mobile. First, the local trend – with so many people out and on the go we see mobile queries rise. Second, there is the trend of using mobile devices while watching TV. This drives up mobile queries around the bank holidays, which are big TV-viewing days.