Why Are The UK’s Internet Shoppers So Data-Hungry?

2012 has been a remarkable year for Britain.

We’ve had the Olympics celebrations, a Tour de France victory, a Champions League win and have finally managed to win a grand slam tennis title: as years go, they don’t come much better than that. As Sebastien Coe said at the Olympics closing ceremony, this was they year when Britain demonstrated that it was still ‘great’. Sadly all that optimism and the feel-good factor have been largely missing since the Olympic flame was doused in September, and we’ve been left feeling flat ever since. So it’s reassuring to know that there is still something this nation is good at, and no we’re not talking about sport or academic endeavour here: Great Britain leads the world at online shopping according to Ofcom, the communications regulator. We used to be a nation of shopkeepers – now we’re a nation of online consumers. It’s perhaps not the claim to fame we’d normally bang on about, but when time’s are lean it’s a case of any port in a storm.

According to the Ofcom survey, internet shopping is more popular in the UK than in any other major country.

Consumers in the UK spend on average £1,083 a year on internet shopping: Australia, the second highest spender, spends £842 a year. So why is internet shopping so popular in the UK? What makes us online shopaholics? Well, Ofcom maintains that much of it is down to our mobiles, and the fact that UK consumers are downloading more data from their mobiles than any other nation.

So what other insights does the Ofcom survey highlight?

  • In December 2011 the average UK mobile connection used 424MB of data; that figure surprisingly is even higher than Japanese users who averaged 392MBs.
  • 16% of all web traffic in the UK was from mobiles, tablets or other connected devices – that’s significantly more than any other European country.
  • 40% of UK adults now access Facebook, Twitter and others social networks via their mobiles.
  • This figure is significantly higher if you look at the online behaviour of the younger generation. 62% of 18 to 24-year-olds access social networking platforms via a mobile or tablet device.

The findings form part of Ofcom’s seventh International Communications Market Report, which looks at the take-up, availability, price and use of broadband, landlines, mobiles, TV and radio across 17 major countries. UK citizens it appears are also the most-likely nation to watch TV-on-demand and use digital video recorders, according to the report.

Our fondness for internet shopping is matched by our willingness to adopt and embrace new technologies quicker than any other nation. UK consumers welcomed the new generation of internet-enabled TVs with open arms it appears: 15% of the adult population now own such a set. Even the U.S.A. can’t match that figure, with only 10% of the population owning the device. We Brits also like to do things in a big way. More than a third of TVs sold in the UK in the first quarter of 2012 measuring between 33 and 44 inches.

But why are we as a nation so obsessed with communication services?

Well, it appears that the reason is simple. The UK remains the cheapest place to buy communication services, though the gap is beginning to close. Ofcom said a basket of communication services – including fixed-line telephone, mobile calls and texts and fixed and mobile broadband and TV – costs on average £146 in the UK. That figure was £32 cheaper than in France, £101 cheaper than Italy and £168 cheaper than the US.

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