by: Matt Rhodes

A report in Business Week highlights the growing and increasingly large proportion of shopping in the UK. Online now accounts for 20p in every pound spent on shopping in the UK and the IMRG Capgemini E-Retail Sales Index reports that UK shoppers spent more than £26.5bn online in the first six months of 2008 alone. Online is big business for retail in the UK.

This statistic shows the power and growth of online as a transactional channel and with the current economic downturn reports suggest that even more people will go online to find the best value products. This change in shopping behaviour needs to be matched by a change in how retailers build their businesses and also a change in how they use online.

Shoppers use the online channel for two purposes - to get information or to purchase product. If 20% of retail spend involves the latter I would expect an even higher proportion of retail spend to begin with research online. This means that companies who will benefit from this shift in online shopping need to prepare to cater for this growing online traffic.

We’ve written before about the power of reviews on ecommerce site. 83% of consumers say that an online review would influence their purchase decision, and 61% would specifically hunt down such reviews online before making a purchase. With more people going online to shop, the importance of reviews is growing. And with most consumers likely to visit a brand’s own website first when they’re looking for information brands need to be ready to provide this information themselves.

So shopping online needs to drive retailers to provide a greater amount and greater depth of content. Reviews from other users and shoppers, information about the product and services for sale and even a place to get advice before purchasing. To capitalise upon this shift towards online shopping, retailers need to move beyond just providing a place for transactions, a directory online of products online. They need to offer a true and distinct online shopping experience, including reviews, insider information and online communities where shoppers can get information and share ideas.

The battle for customers is growing online. Those with the best and most developed online strategies will be those who succeed.

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