Credit: Tim Reckmann/Flickr

Brits are the biggest online spenders in the developed world

The UK's taste for credit makes it one of the most lucrative ecommerce markets out there.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 16 Jan 2017

If there’s one thing Brits increasingly love to do, it’s splashing the cash online. British shoppers spend an average of almost £2,000 per year online - more than any other consumers in the developed world, according to a report from comms regulator Ofcom.

That’s clicks ahead of the second biggest spenders, Australians, who part with £1,356 a year online on average, and Americans, who shell out £1,171. The Chinese and Russians, meanwhile, are well behind their richer counterparts, spending £214 and £128 respectively.

British ‘e-shoppers’ - people who ‘regularly’ buy online - spend an average of £3,077 a year on the internet. While Ofcom doesn’t define ‘regular’, it says 59% of Brits shop online at least once a week. That’s just behind the 60% of Germans, but well below the 77% of Chinese parting with their cash virtually every week.

Source: Ofcom

What makes the UK such a lucrative market for ecommerce, then? Our taste for cheap debt is one factor - the ubiquity of credit cards makes spending online far easier. While many of us moan about rubbish internet connections, Britain’s relatively fast broadband does also help - only Japan, South Korea and Singapore’s have more people on fast connections.

And our past penchant for catalogues is a factor too. ‘There has been a traditional strong propensity for catalogue shopping among UK consumers and this appears to be translating also to online,’ CCS Insight analyst Keith Mann told the FT. It also fed into our love of cheap credit, as catalogue retailers would let you pay in monthly installments. 

Unsurprisingly, advertisers are increasingly focussing their attention on the jungle that is online - two fifths of all UK ad spend is now on the internet, the highest proportion of any of the countries surveyed.

But marketers might want to beware of devoting too much time and money to ‘traditional’ social networks, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. It’s a measure of just how fast the online world is changing that 56% of Brits said they go on a social network at least once a week, compared to 65% last year, as people, led by teens, switch to apps like Whatsapp, Instagram and Snapchat.

And while social network usage climbed in Australia, Spain, Italy and France, it also fell in the US, China and Japan. That means advertisers around the world will be increasingly keen to reach consumers on apps, and a big slice of pie for any tech companies that can let them do that.

Image credit:Tim Reckmann/Flickr

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