Research by Ofcom has found that British consumers are the biggest online shoppers in the world, with each person in the UK spending an average of £1,175 each year. Some 59 per cent of people surveyed said they shopped online because it was cheaper than using the high street, and 50 per cent felt it was a quicker way of finding the products they wanted.
So what does this mean? While retailers are under pressure to tempt people through their doors, the findings are great for consumers, as websites battle to offer the best deals and incentives to encourage us to shop online more.??And it’s not just at Christmas that online shopping is big business; when I was renovating my house this year, the internet was a great resource for finding what I needed – and quickly. I bought most of the items online due to the savings on offer, and decided to stick to reliable companies like Screwfix and Toolstation for plumbing and electrical essentials, as prices are competitive and both offer next day delivery. Nabru is also a favourite, as you can customise a modern corner sofa online with the option of next-day delivery. Another great retailer for good value, a user-friendly website and peace of mind when shopping, John Lewis is my go-to place for appliances, offering what should be the industry standard when it comes to a long warranty.
Online stores are generally cheaper due to lower overheads, making it easier to attract buyers with upfront discounts. Another reason sited for turning to the web is a desire to avoid long queues at the checkout and the comparative ease of paying online. Jeremy Nicholds, of Visa Europe, says: ‘Online shopping now accounts for more than 25 per cent of spend with Visa in the UK, signifying the confidence that consumers have in the security of online payments and the delivery of goods.’
Faster broadband speeds have also contributed to this new way of shopping. ‘Having a fast Internet Service Provider is key, a provider that has a truly unlimited policy to cope with what householders use the web for now, be it shopping or streaming movies,’ says Lyssa McGowan, of Sky Broadband.
However, the reason I believe online shopping is more popular here than in the US or Australia, for example, is due to tight UK consumer laws. Simply paying by credit card offers free insurance if the goods cost more than £100 (the credit card supplier is obliged to refund if the retailer fails to deliver), plus we benefit from the right to return goods within seven days – both options that many countries don’t offer.
As Lyssa McGowan advises, though, always check that the web browser changes from http:// to https:// when paying, as the ‘S’ stands for secure. And if you’re offered a top-of-the-line item for a rock-bottom price, it may be too good to be true. Do additional research before buying and check the site has a phone number and address, so that if there is a problem with your order you have someone to contact.