Posted on: 11 December 2019

The rise of online sales

In the UK, ecommerce is worth £137.38 billion and it is something that has been on the rise in the retail sector for a number of years.

We’re taking a look at market data to show you the importance of online sales in retailing and looking at some of the ways that you can adopt online retail systems into your business.

Why has online shopping taken off?

It is thought that online shopping has taken off because it has more benefits than shopping in a physical store, such as:

  • It’s easier to browse for products when you don’t know what you’re looking for.
  • You can easily compare prices for the same item from different online retailers.
  • You can shop in the comfort of your own home 24/7.

Whilst face to face shopping still accounts for around 80% of all total retail sales, online shopping is on the rise, peaking particularly around the Christmas period. It is estimated that online shopping will make up 50% of all retail sales within the next 10 years.

How online sales have grown

Online shopping has seen a huge surge in usage since the turn of the millennium since becoming more mainstream in the retail sector. We have taken a look at data which shows how online shopping has changed the way that we purchase goods.

Market penetration

Market penetration of online shopping has risen from 53% in 2008 to 82% in 2019. This means that the amount of people who have bought something online in the last 11 years has increased by almost a third. 

What devices do consumers use?

Research found that the devices that we use the most for online shopping are desktop computers, smartphones and tablets. However, the research also showed that desktops had a higher conversion rate for purchasing. It is believed that this is because shoppers will browse for products on their smartphones, but actually make the purchase via a desktop computer.

Sale Cycle has published the kinds of things that we are using mobile and desktop shopping for. For example, looking at all web traffic for last year, mobile purchases edge out desktop purchases by 51.3% to 48.7%, however, desktop purchases account for higher amounts of sales  when looking at online sales overall. Mobile, however, dominates fashion web traffic and sales, as well as retail traffic, but desktop computers were used more for retail sales and travel traffic and sales. 

The people driving the sales

Online shopping is very much a 21st century activity, with figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing as much. In 2018-2019, the ONS conducted a survey asking if people from a certain age group had bought something online in that 12 month period.

The results showed that in 2018, 96% of people aged 16-34 had bought online, opposed to 70% within the 35+ age bracket. Up to August 2019, the figure for the 16-34 age group had risen to 97% but for the 35+ group this had risen to 76%, so whilst the 16-34 age group were already regular online shoppers, there had been a surge in online shoppers in the 35+ age bracket.

Christmas shopping

Online shopping really took off for the Christmas period in 2014. Since then Christmas shopping online has grown to £25bn in 2016, with online sales growing year on year.

By offering customers an online option for the Christmas period, they will be able to avoid all of the hustle and bustle of the high street and enjoy great value Christmas shopping from the comfort of their own home.

How to get your business online

Some retail businesses are best left offline. For example, for convenience stores, there is little reason to have an online platform as you are already convenient for your customers and your products are rarely suited to online platforms.

If you think your business would benefit from an online store, you can follow these steps:

Plan your site

Similarly to how you have a plan for your shop, you will also need a plan for your online space. Decide what you want from your site and how it will benefit your business, thinking of what you want to sell, your prices and your delivery and payment methods.

Choose the best form of web hosting

You have a variety of options when it comes to building your website. You will need to decide whether or not you want to use these solutions:

  • Hosted – With a hosted site, your website will be housed on the host’s server, who will usually provide software and security that you will use for your online store. Take a look at some of the best web hosting solutions from Tech Radar.
  • Licenced – When using a licenced system, you will likely need to install software onto your computer and find your own hosting and security protection. This method usually requires a high level of computer literacy.
  • Open source – An open source solution is a free download where you will usually have to build the website yourself, but open source offers a high level of customisation. Open source will need a high level of coding, so you may need to hire a web designer. Take a look at Tech Radar’s list of the best design software.

You may want to explore full packaged ecommerce systems, such as X-Cart, BigCommerce or Shopify.

Build your online store

After learning about the functionality of your online platform, you or your designer can start building your page how you want it. Consider how you want the page to look, as well as the navigation so that it is easy for your customers to find what they’re looking for.

Choose a domain name

Your domain name is what your customers will type in to find your business. A domain name should be just as important as your business name; the two will likely even be the same. Once you have decided, register the name with your web domain provider.

Go live!

Once you have finished all of these steps, your online business should be ready to get up and running. Now it’s time to spread the word, and tell new and existing customers that they can now buy from you online!

How customers find your website

It is all well and good setting up your website, but how do people find your online store? Take a look at our tips on driving traffic to your website:

Paid advertising

For a quick start to getting your business seen, you may need to start using some paid advertising. This is where you will use an online advertising platform to display your adverts online. You could start out by doing your own paid advertising campaigns by using self-service platforms such as Google Ads or Facebook Business, but if you have large advertising budgets consider using a digital marketing agency.

Explore social media

Social media is a great way of engaging with your audience and letting them know about your new digital store. Gather a following on social media by posting engaging content that starts a conversation based on the industry that you work to pique the interest of users. The main social media sites that you should explore are Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. You can also use paid advertising on social media which will further your reach for customers.

Take a look at our guide to developing a social media plan for your business to see how to use social media for your business.

Search Engine Optimisation

Search Engine Optimisation, also known as SEO, is designing the content on the website in a way that search engines can find it easier, making your site appear higher on the search engine’s rankings.

You will need to do some research into keywords that will make your site rank highly and produce content that will serve useful content for these keywords.

SEO can be complicated, so it may be worth working with an expert to find out more about how to optimise your site.

Retail insurance with Premierline

Because of the huge amount of diversity in the retail industry, getting your retail insurance right can be a challenge. You will face a number of unique risks depending on the kind of products that you sell and whether or not you sell your products online.

At Premierline, we understand the risks that retailers face, which is why our business insurance experts will assess your business’ needs and will help find insurance quotes that are right for your business. Get in touch to speak to a business insurance professional today.

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