The online shopping hotspots of the UK

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Josh Guthrie
Co-Country Manager
Expert in commerce optimisation and international expansion
UK Hotspots 1

With the Covid-19 pandemic accelerating the shift towards online shopping, ecommerce businesses have never had a better opportunity to grow. Consumers are spending more money than ever through digital platforms, and online audiences are increasing. Because of this, however, the competition within the ecommerce landscape is fierce. To try and give companies a helping hand in 2022, we’ve taken an in-depth look at the UK's online shopping hotspots.

We analysed a list of 60 locations and ranked them on the following factors:

  • Business closures

  • High street strength

  • Offline spending

  • Postage and courier complaints

  • Broadband speed

  • Average salary

By looking at the data points above, we’ve created a definitive list of the locations where people are most likely to make an online purchase and, subsequently, the places where ecommerce businesses should focus their marketing efforts.

The top 5 online shopping hotspots in the UK

1) Reading

Home to some of the fastest broadband speeds across the UK and some of the lowest number of postal and courier complaints last year, Reading takes the top spot as the UK’s online shopping hotspot. In addition to this, the southeast county has the third-highest average salary, with residents earning £36,500 - suggesting locals have a high amount of disposable income to spend. All in all, Reading ranks in the top 10 for five out of six of our ranking factors, making it the ideal place for ecommerce businesses to target.

2) London

Perhaps unsurprisingly, England’s capital ranks number one for half of our data points and claims the second position overall. It has the highest number of business closures per 10,000 people in the capital, and Londoners also earn the highest average salary of £39,994. This combination of faltering business competition and consumers having a high disposable income makes it the perfect location for ecommerce companies to prioritise. London also has the least popular high street and the second-fastest average broadband speed behind Milton Keynes at 46 megabits per second.

UK Hotspots 2

3) Glasgow

Rounding up the top three is Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow. By analysing city centre footfall through Centre for Cities’ ‘high street recovery tracker’, Glasgow was found to have the second least popular high street of all the locations analysed. In addition to this, Glaswegians ranked in the bottom 10 (seventh) for offline spending - suggesting locals favour online shopping over visiting a store. With an average broadband speed and average salary which rank 11th and 12th respectively, our research shows Glasgow should be the primary focus for ecommerce businesses targeting audiences in Scotland.

4) Slough

Situated just 20 miles northeast of top spot Reading, it's not surprising to see Slough rank in the top five for online shopping hotspots. With residents spending the least of all the locations in physical stores, this Berkshire town provides ecommerce businesses with a target audience who have the greatest appetite for online shopping in the UK. There has also been the sixth-highest number of business closures per 10,000 people in Slough, meaning competition for consumers is much lower than in many other locations. Alongside the fact that residents earn the sixth-highest average salary, these two factors make Slough an ideal target location for online companies.

UK Hotspots 3

5) Milton Keynes

With an average broadband speed of 48.2 megabits per second, Milton Keynes boasts the crown of having the best internet connection in the UK, helping to secure its place in the top five. Buckinghamshire's largest town has also had the second-highest number of business closures at 88 per 10,000 people and is also home to the third least popular high street. Although residents in Milton Keynes may have made some of the most complaints to Citizens Advice about their online deliveries in 2021, they earn the seventh-highest average salary in the UK, making it a firm online shopping hotspot.

The UK’s Online Shopping hotspots - top 15

  1. Reading

  2. London

  3. Glasgow

  4. Slough

  5. Milton Keynes

  6. Luton

  7. Northampton

  8. Edinburgh

  9. Newport

  10. Crawley

  11. Birmingham

  12. Cambridge

  13. Bristol

  14. Coventry

  15. Aberdeen

What does our research mean for ecommerce businesses?

With the competition to attract and engage with consumers being more fierce than ever, it is integral that ecommerce businesses implement the most effective marketing strategies possible. Despite being a relatively straightforward tactic, many companies often overlook location-based marketing (otherwise known as geotargeting). While we hope our research inspires ecommerce businesses to incorporate location-based marketing into their promotional strategies, companies must understand how it can work best for them. While Reading may be the online shopping hotspot of the UK, it may be beneficial for businesses to prioritise other locations first based on specific demographic factors of that place or even the relevancy of a product to a region. That said, the research provides a strong indication of areas where people are most likely to shop online - a critical insight that ecommerce businesses should use to their advantage.

To give companies the best chance of making 2022 the most successful year to date, we’ve also outlined some of our top tips for attracting consumers and maximising conversions to go alongside our research.

Six top tips to make your business a success online

1) Invest in your website

A website is the backbone of any good ecommerce business. A good website makes a brand instantly recognisable, builds trust with consumers, and ultimately persuades them to convert. With 94% of consumers citing design as their main reason for mistrusting a website, businesses must get this aspect of their site right. If you're just starting out and think you might struggle to create a site through a website builder, then consider hiring a website designer. If you already have an established website, it may be worth conducting a review to fix common issues such as filling key pages with too much content or not having a clear call to action.

There is far more to a good website than design; the very best examples ensure a site ranks as highly as possible in the search engine result pages (SERPs) for target keywords, thus maximising online visibility. To do this, businesses must implement a search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy that involves various tactics, including analysing search intent and consumer queries, optimising on-page content, and carrying out keyword research. While some businesses may opt to tackle SEO in-house using their internal expertise, those with limited knowledge and experience should look to hire an SEO specialist or even a digital marketing agency.

2) Ensure you have an effective online payment system

Although the checkout process falls right at the end of the customer journey, there is no doubt in the importance of ecommerce businesses getting this right. Unfortunately, with recent research showing that consumers abandon 90% of online orders, it is clear that many companies are overlooking their payment systems and ultimately losing out on sales. The first step you should take surrounds the payment options you provide. By ensuring you offer all of the most popular payment methods such as PayPal, credit cards and Apple Pay, you’re increasing the trust consumers have in your site - ultimately making them more likely to convert. That’s why here at Mollie we offer more than 20 payment options across Europe.

Implementing a security symbol such as a ‘lock’ when people submit their payment information is also an excellent way to build trust; it demonstrates to shoppers that you are handling their payments with care.

3) Implement location-based marketing into your strategy

As mentioned above, geotargeting is a crucial marketing tactic that all online businesses should take advantage of. While it is useful for all businesses, it is particularly beneficial for those with a physical store and an online presence. Geotargeting works by pushing an advertisement, email or other notification to a user’s phone, laptop or tablet. These messages are sent based on a user's location. Businesses can even set up ads to be sent to consumers once they get within a certain distance of their shop, enticing them to visit.

Companies that don’t have a physical store can also use location-based marketing. One example would be if your product is suited to a particular age demographic, so you use research to determine the locations with the optimum age profiles of your target audience. Our research into the online shopping hotspots of the UK should also indicate the places you can prioritise as well.

4) Know your competition

With the pandemic resulting in many businesses investing more money into their digital platforms than ever before, the ecommerce landscape is more competitive than ever. It is therefore crucial that companies understand what their competitors' offerings are and how they can differentiate themselves from them or mitigate any unique selling points (USPs) they might have. A significant factor for consumers is delivery costs; if your competitors offer free shipping, can you do the same? Or offer something similar such as free delivery for orders over a certain amount, making your business a more attractive option for customers. Delivery times are also a sticking point. If you offer quicker shipping times than your competitors or next day delivery, make sure you shout about this and include it in your marketing.

If you’ve recently launched your business online, it’s essential to recognise that your digital competition may differ from any offline competition. Therefore, you should take the time to familiarise yourself with the ecommerce businesses competing to rank for the same keywords as you and ultimately the same traffic.

Posting content on your site through in-depth guides or even reports on industry topics is also a great way to drive traffic to your website. This can help you increase your ranking in the search engine result pages and increase conversions. Incorporating a content calendar into your SEO strategy is a must.

5) Perfect your social media strategy

Whether through Facebook, TikTok, or even Instagram, social media is an excellent place for businesses to grow their audience and engage with their customers. All social media platforms are free, and it’s easy to set up your business on them. The key to maximising the effectiveness of your social media presence is to make sure you understand your audience and the kind of content that they're most likely to engage with. It’s important to remember that not all of your posts have to result in a lead; they can simply be there to build your authority in the industry you operate in or even get people talking about your brand.

Although it won’t be relevant for all ecommerce businesses, influencer marketing can also play a huge role in an effective social media strategy. You can dramatically increase trust and authority in your products by having people associate your brand with personalities they are inspired by and respect. Therefore, partnering with influencers is a great way to reach a bigger audience, grow your social following, and drive more leads. However, it is crucial that you research which influencers will connect with your audience most effectively to maximise its potential.

6) Use tech to help you thrive

With a whole host of tools, platforms and packages available to companies, taking the steps needed to set up an online business may seem daunting for many. To make the transition into the ecommerce world as easy as possible, here are four great tools you should take advantage of.

  • WordPress - With more than 455 million websites worldwide using WordPress, it is clear you should look no further than using this content management system. WordPress is easy to use, with an intuitive interface that makes adding new pages, blog posts and images super simple. When using WordPress, you'll have complete control over the content on your website, and the great news is it’s free!

  • Google Analytics - When it comes to a tool that tracks and monitors website performance, Google Analytics really can’t be beaten, making it a must-have for all ecommerce businesses. The web analytics service provides a wealth of insight into the behaviour of your website visitors, from how they arrived on your site to any conversions they make. You can use this data to identify whether your marketing strategy accurately reflects visitor demographics

  • Trello - Launching an online business can pose many challenges, so it is essential you have a precise method for managing tasks. Trello is great for this and allows you to organise everything in an easy-to-digest and visual manner. You can create columns for different lists such as tasks that need to be prioritised, with the addition of labels, due dates and more. You can also share your Trello boards with your team, allowing everyone to be kept up-to-date on the progress of each job. It may sound like a simple concept, but Trello is a great tool and one that you shouldn't overlook

  • MailChimp - While there are many different forms of marketing, email marketing remains one of the most popular and effective tools to promote your business's products and services. MailChimp is an excellent option for companies looking to get started with email marketing and is free up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. Through MailChimp, you can schedule emails and send trigger emails based on factors such as cart abandonment or sign-ups. According to Forrester Research, trigger emails - which are sent automatically based on predefined conditions - generate four times as much revenue and 18 times greater profit than regular emails, emphasising their effectiveness. MailChimp also allows you to monitor your sales and website activity, making it a good all-round data and marketing tool

Methodology

All of the data for the various factors were collected from a range of sources:

These figures were ranked from 1 to 60 for each location with 1 being the best and 60 being the worst for each factor. The location with the lowest final total was deemed the online shopping hotspot of the UK.

Full dataset available here

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