I’ve been doing a lot of research lately about social shopping trends in the UK. With each new article I read, the conclusion becomes clearer: UK consumers are catching up to their neighbours across the pond when it comes to online shopping. But are UK businesses keeping up?

Here are eight stats around social media, online shopping, and social commerce in the UK.

1. Two-fifths of time on computers is spent communicating with other people.

As Ofcom reported in their 2010 Communications Market Report, the average UK adult spends two-fifths of their time on computers communicating with others. In fact, for 16 to 24 year-olds, communication dominates over half of computer use. We are social has a good digest of the socially-relevant content in Ofcom’s report on their blog, as well.

2. 1 in 5 UK adults prefers surfing the web to watching television.

The importance of communication is also represented in the shift from traditional, one-way media to conversational media online. Online activities such as emailing, texting, and social networking all command high attention and high importance scores from users, while traditional forms of media consumption – watching TV, listening to the radio, reading print media – attract much lower average attention scores, says Ofcom.

3. Social networking is now the most popular pastime in the UK.

As UK adults shift their free-time focus to online activities and communication, it’s no wonder social networking is now their most popular pastime. Simply Zesty reported in their video that 64% of UK adults have a profile on a social network. The average user spends just over six hours on social media sites per month. The importance of social networking could be contributing factor to the finding that 1 in 3 UK adults now agree with the statement, “I could not live without the internet.”

4. 74% of UK adults under 35 find some business benefit in their social media use.

According to a study from Salesforce and OnePoll, younger adults in the UK and Ireland find business benefits in their social media use, as do 52% of UK adults over 35. The research also shows that social media is on the rise at the workplace, with 46% of employees using these services at work every day. This figure rises to 56% for employees in their early 20s, and to two-thirds for those just entering to job market.

5. About a third of UK businesses now use social media to communicate with customers.

Given the business benefits UK adults find in social media, it follows that UK businesses are getting in the game. New figures from Virgin Media Business show 33% of the 5,000 U.K. businesses surveyed now use Twitter to communicate with customers, compared to 32% using Facebook and 29% using MySpace. “British businesses have been quick to see the opportunities that lie within social media and are helping lead the world in targeting this new form of media,” said Andrew McGrath, Executive Director of Commercial Operations at Virgin Media Business.

6. 92% of people in the UK using online search now shop online.

Online shopping in the UK has grown from 66% to 67.3% during the last two years, says IMRG. Of those in the UK using online search, 91.9% are now shopping online. In fact, 78% of all UK internet users now look online for information about goods and services.

7. Consumers in the UK and Europe account for a third of global online sales.

Shopsafe reports that consumers the UK and Europe are responsible for over a third of all sales made online. This stat illustrates the buying power of European consumers, as they make up only 24% of the total number of internet users who shop online worldwide. IMRG predicts that European consumers will spend £456 billion in online and offline channels this year.

8. Traditional social network ads fail to engage 96% of users.

Engaging users on social networks is important for UK businesses – visitors arriving from social media sites are ten times as likely to make a purchase online as average internet users (71% vs. 7%). But The Telegraph reported that traditional social network ads fail to engage 96% of users. So, what works? Users “are looking for buyer reviews,” said Liane Dietrich, managing director of LinkShare, the affiliate network that conducted the research.

Just as in the US and in other global markets, “social” is becoming less of an afterthought and more of a necessity for UK businesses. Is your business keeping up?

B&Q shares the rules to social commerce in the UK.

Joanna Robb, Multi Channel Development Manager at B&Q (one of my clients), shares the strategy and tactics they’ve used to engage their community of customers and drive measurable results from online conversations. Register for the free webinar with ATG on 28 September here.

There’s still time to register for the London Social Commerce Summit!

Get real-world social tips and results from Europe’s top brands. Join Stephen Fry and speakers from Google, Forrester, Argos, JibJab, and Urban Outfitters for the UK’s definitive social commerce event on 6 October at the BFI IMAX at Waterloo. Register for the Summit here!

5 Responses to “8 UK social stats, and what they mean for your business”

  1. Hi Sam, I’m certain everyone here at Bazaarvoice would agree with you. Anyone who has had any sort of measurable success with social has worked both hard and smart. The first step is to become interested in social as a brand, and this is one step toward that–strategy once that desire is established is another issue entirely.

  2. Your article was very well written, however for those individuals or companies thinking they can log on to facebook, linked in, my space – whatever – and see immediate ROI, are simply fooling themselves. Like anything else, one needs to carve out a space that is filled with creativity and reliable testimonials from clients and be patient! Building a network, growing your client base and getting labelled a reliable, trusted source and seller does not happen overnight. It’s like a relationship; you have to be willing to invest and think outside the box, to keep things interesting…..

  3. Your article was very well written, however for those individuals or companies thinking they can log on to facebook, linked in, my space – whatever – and see immediate ROI, are simply fooling themselves. Like anything else, one needs to carve out a space that is filled with creativity and reliable testimonials from clients and be patient! Building a network, growing your client base and getting labelled a reliable, trusted source and seller does not happen overnight. It’s like a relationship; you have to be willing to invest and think outside the box, to keep things interesting…..

  4. Sarah Lee

    Informative article. Very telling in the ways that social media/internet use is continuously increasing in the areas of business & leisure.

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