Consumer use of tablets for shopping is growing four times faster than smartphones, according to the latest E-Commerce Index from Rakuten, the online marketplace and owner of UK marketplace Rakuten's Play.com. The study of shopping trends in 14 markets shows that tablet usage has grown by 41.9% in the past year, whereas the use of smartphones has grown by just 9.7% during the same period.
Rakuten found that 6.1% of people prefer to shop online using a tablet, while 6.8% prefer to use a smartphone. The UK overtook the US as the world's leading market for tablet use, with 12.2% of the Brits polled saying that they prefer to use tablet, versus 11.3% of American shoppers.
At the other end of the scale, shoppers in Brazil have been slower to switch on to the benefits of tablet PCs with just 0.7% of the population preferring to use a tablet when shopping. Smartphones remain the top choice for 5% of shoppers in the UK.
Despite the growth of m-commerce, the PC remains shoppers' most popular choice for accessing retail sites, however this is changing. Globally, 81.8% of shoppers use a PC to shop online, compared to 83.2% in 2013. Mobile devices make up 13.8% of this total, up from 12% last year. 80% of Brits shop online using a PC, while nearly 20% use a mobile device.
Carol Dray, marketing director of Rakuten's Play.com said: "We're continuing to see a shift in how consumers interact with retailers through digital channels. Just four years after the launch of Apple's iPad, tablets are fast-becoming the most popular device for shopping online. With tablet's larger displays offering a more enjoyable experience than most smartphones, it seems bigger is better, however many retailers are failing to measure up when optimising their online presence and apps. Retailers are missing a trick by not tapping into this trend and delivering a tablet-orientated experience to shoppers."
Over the past year, some markets have seen 'social fatigue' set in with a very slight drop in the number of people recommending items that they have bought on social networks. The latest Index shows that 41.9% of people recommend items on social media sites, compared with 44% in 2013. In the UK, 30% of people polled said that they regularly review and recommend products.
Carol Dray added: "Social remains an important channel for retailers to engage consumers and 'crowdsource' opinions about new products and services. Aside from influencing stocking decisions, recommendations shared on social sites are also impacting consumer buying habits. Many shoppers now turn to sites like Pinterest or Twitter to discover products that they might like to buy and to find out what others thought of these items, before making a purchase. Retailers can drive sales by interacting with consumers through these channels and making it easier to share recommendations."
Clothing and accessories are the items most commonly bought items online worldwide, however shoppers in Brazil and Japan buck this trend. Consumer electronics came out on top in Brazil, with more than half (55.1%) of shoppers buying electrical items online, while in Japan, shoppers are most likely to order or download books and magazines with 59.7% of people doing so. In the UK, 69% of shoppers order clothing and accessories online, while other popular categories include CDs and DVDs, books, housewares and small appliances. Brits are least likely to buy flowers and gift arrangements online, with 87% of shoppers preferring to make these purchases in person.