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UK retail search volumes up 11 per cent in Q1

Overseas searches for UK retail brands grew 57 per cent year on year.

Total retail search volumes in the UK grew by 11 per cent in the first quarter of 2012 compared with the same period last year, according to a new survey released today by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Google’s Online Retail Monitor (ORM).

The increase was largely driven by a rise in mobile and tablet search volumes, which grew by 132 per cent year on year. There was a noticeable peak in searches two weeks before Mother’s Day.

Total search volumes from overseas consumers rose by 57 per cent. They grew at their fastest rate for items related to health and beauty and food and drink, up 21 per cent year on year. For mobile searches, growth in volume was highest for food and drink, which was up by 172 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2011.

Stephen Robertson, director general of BRC, said: “Squeezed household budgets mean customers are turning more and more to the internet to research what they’re buying and look for best value. Being able to check competitors’ goods and prices while they’re in a store is a big part of the continuing boom in retail searches via mobiles and tablets. It’s a sign of these tough times that this isn’t restricted to major purchases – the biggest growth in mobile retail searches is on food and drink as people compare different offers.

“The number of overseas consumers searching for UK retailers has soared . . . Internet search traffic from developing countries like Mexico and Pakistan has more than doubled. These statistics demonstrate the growth potential of online for UK retailers and the part retail can play in building a recovery based on exports, given the right conditions and a genuinely free-trade world market place.”

Peter Fitzgerald, retail director at Google, said: “The first quarter of 2012 provided more evidence of the growing importance of mobile. While overall retail queries grew 11 per cent year on year, mobile experienced exponential growth, growing 132 per cent year-on-year in Q1.

“Mobile retail queries as a percentage of total retail queries also followed a similar trajectory, more than doubling from 8 per cent in Q1 2011 to 17 per cent in Q1 2012. The busiest days online, overall and on mobile, for Q1 2012 came in the first few days of January as customers searched for bargains and post-Christmas discounts in the January sales period.”

The ORM measures changes and trends in the growth of retail search terms over time. The mobile measure includes smartphone and tablet searches. The metric that measures pure online and multi-channel retail search growth is calculated using click-through rates of Google Ads.