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UK Consumers Spent £5.8B Online in March 2012

Some UK retailers have apparently found a reason for celebration -- even within a historically weak economy. British consumers spent £5.8 billion online in March, 2012 -- that's the equivalent of £114 per person, according to the latest IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index. This equates to a year-on-year growth of 14 percent for the e-retail sector and a 9 percent increase on February.

With more and more tech-savvy Brits using smartphones and tablets outfitted with purpose-built applications, shopping via mobile devices has become an important driver of online shopping via the internet.

As a result, mobile retail (m-retail) has recorded huge growth, up a staggering 254% on March 2011 and averaging 300% year-on-year growth for Q1 2012. Interestingly, the conversion rates for mobile  -- those shoppers that visit a retail site via a mobile device and make a purchase from it -- remains very low at 0.7 percent in Q1 2011, increasing to 1.4 percent in Q1 2012, and that's compared to 4.13 percent in March for traditional online website visitor conversions.

This trend strongly suggests that shoppers are primarily using their mobile devices to browse for goods on the move, compare prices in-store or use functions such as store locators. All these mobile shopping statistics are taken from the IMRG Capgemini m-Retail Sales Index, which runs in parallel with the main Index and has been launched this month.

The performance of the e-retail sector adds to an increasing disparity with the high-street, which has continued to struggle. The overall online market saw a 13 percent year-on-year growth during the first quarter of 2012, confirming earlier estimates for the year and a positive indication that the market is doing well -- in spite of the current state of the local economy.

March was given a major boost by the sunny start to spring , which saw fashion-conscious Brits updating their wardrobes, resulting in growth of 15 percent year-on-year and a steep 23 percent month-on-month rise in the clothing sector.

Mothering Sunday was another key driver in March’s strong performance. The gifts sector in particular saw the benefits of shoppers jumping online to buy presents for mum -- leaping 48 percent year-on-year.

Similarly, the health & beauty sector, which includes perfumes and other toiletries, saw a respectable increase of 19 percent on February.

Although confidence in the mobile channel is obviously growing, the average conversion rate of just 1 percent is far lower than that of total e-retail. This may be partly influenced by the context in which mobile engagement can occur, with consumers comparing prices in-store or using store locators on the move for example.

For the e-retail market as a whole, the first quarter has come in at 13 percent growth which is exactly in line with prior forecasts for the year. This is positive news as the growth rates for Q1 in 2011 were very strong so the market is performing well against a high base.

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