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The Truth Behind UK’s Love Affair With Online Shopping – It’s Driven By Golden Oldies, Not Millennials!

It’s official – the UK loves shopping online! According to recent research from Colliers International, the Real Estate services company headquartered in London, the UK is by some distance the largest European market for e-commerce.

Collier’s research reveals that Brits spend around £130bn every year shopping online – in fact, Brits, alongside the Japanese and the Spanish, spend more on enjoying themselves than any other nations. Surprisingly, bucking the stereotype, the Russians and the Chinese spend the least.

We know what you’re thinking – that’ll be those pesky millennials with their disruptive tech and their “Tinder for fashion” apps distorting the picture – but you’d be wrong.

In fact, say Colliers, “British Seniors are among the most tech savvy consumers in the world with 78% of internet users over 65 now shopping online.”

That’s a higher percentage than the whole of the Italian population – Western Europe’s least tech-savvy shoppers. Only 68% of Italians have access to the internet, and a mere 26% do any of their shopping online.

The staggering difference between the two countries’ shopping habits reflects the fact that despite the rise and rise (and rise, yawn) of the “connected world”, and e-commerce in particular, global shopping habits remain extremely diverse and subjective.

“In a globalised age, it can be natural to think that shopping is becoming an increasingly homogenised process”, says Paul Souber, Colliers’ Head of EMEA Retail; “however, as this survey shows, the ways in which people shop and pay for their shopping remains very diverse and often surprising.”

The report also reveals that cash remains the preferred way of paying in China, Russia, Spain, Germany, Poland and Italy, and that French shoppers use cheques more than any other nation, whilst the Swedes and the Dutch are moving quickly towards creating a cashless society.

More than 50% of Swedes are using a service called Swish, a payments and financial services provider that began life as an app to help friends split restaurant bills.

Then what do people talk / argue about after dinner in Sweden? Online shopping, we presume.

Online shopping is borderless too, with shoppers unafraid to make purchases from foreign websites, and e-commerce sites happy to process with an increasingly wide variety of payment methods, and deliver to anywhere in the world. The biggest online export markets are the UK, US, China, and Germany.

By 2020, forecast Colliers, 45% of online shoppers will buy from foreign countries, with the value of cross border sales increasing from $230bn (2014 figure) to $1 trillion by 2020.

Let’s be honest, the baby-boomers have always been one step ahead, and the generation that gave us Bernie Ecclestone, “Sir” Philip Green and the Rolling Stones aren’t finished yet. Not by a long way.

Millennials learn from their elders about digital, not vice versa!

It seems extraordinary, given the hype, but if you want irrefutable evidence, how about this; Marks and Spencer’s, hardly the epitome of millennial cool, has reported that between 2012 and this year, visits to their online store have increased from 7m, to 80m.

Somebody’s buying woollen socks and hats by the truckload, and it ain’t One Direction!

29% of all online purchases made in the UK in 2015 were made on mobile devices, however, something we feel has more to do millennials with their speedy fingers and familiarity with “tap-tap-go”.

56% of UK e-buyers have bought internationally, mostly from retail sites in China and the US, whereas in Russia, 25% of all purchases are made from overseas, with 80% of those being made in China. And, despite having greater mobile penetration than most, the Poles, Russians, and Italians rarely make purchases with their smartphones.

What an eclectic bunch we all are – as Paul Souber puts it: “Changes to consumer spending capacity, consumer choices, demographic-urbanisation and the rapid accession of technological adaption are re-structuring shopping behaviour.”

“Where people shop, what they’re buying, how they shop and even how they pay for things is all being influenced by technology and the internet in some way. “

Hear hear! And nowhere more so than amongst the “Silver Surfers”, it seems.

And you thought they all shopped at BHS and voted for Brexit! They’ll be heading for Glastonbury next.


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