Online retail news in brief (28 March 2018)



In case you missed them, we’ve pulled together a few online retail news highlights from around the web this week.

Here are some of the latest stories in online retail.

Beast from the East Sees UK Warm to Online Retail

UK online retail sales were up +13.1% year-on-year (YoY) in February, according to the latest figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index. With the Beast from the East hitting the UK in the last week of February, the cold weather saw shoppers turn online in their droves, driving a +3.5% lift in sales compared to the previous week. This continues 2018’s positive start, with overall year-on-year growth averaging 13.5% year-to-date.

Despite the strong sales however, the overall market conversion rate (the percentage of site visitors that complete a purchase) was 4.2%, down from 4.6% last year. The conversion rates for both multichannel and online retailers also came in lower than February 2017. However, the average basket value (ABV) rose by £11 in comparison to last February. Meanwhile, smartphone growth remained strong at +38.5% on last year, but is certainly slowing when compared to the +57% growth for the same month last year. Tablets, on the other hand, continued their now 4-month long decline trend, decreasing -6.7% year-on-year, a record low for this device type.

Advertisers warn Facebook on data

UK advertising trade body ISBA has warned Facebook that advertisers may abandon the site if it can’t assure them and users of data safety.

The admonition comes after Cambridge Analytica was accused of improperly accessing and using data from Facebook users to target them with election campaign material.

The price of Facebook’s shares plummeted after the news broke, and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and chief, expressed contrition for the social network’s failure to correctly guard user data.

Alibaba launches car vending machine

If you need to buy a Ford in Guangzhou, you can download an app and buy a car from Alibaba's giant vending machine.

After a three day test drive, the customer can decide whether they'd like to try another car or complete the purchase.

Alibaba plans to place additional car vending machines in Beijing and Hangzhou.

Developers reveal details of Battersea Power Station retail revamp

The Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC) has unveiled its plans for the renovation of the iconic landmark.

The Grade II listed Battersea Power Station is set to become a retail and leisure hub, through £9bn worth of development, with an estimated completion date of 2020.

The plans include 40 restaurants and cafes, as well as an array of retail stores, and promises to create 20,000 jobs.

There are also plans for a new Northern Line Tube station, and a port for Thames Clippers.

Apple is due to set up a 50,000 square foot office in the development.

Easter footfall could rise by 2.4%

Springboard estimates that the Easter weekend could see retail footfall rise by 2.4% year-on-year. However, there are forecasts for cold and snow, which the firm suggests would see footfall drop by 15%.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard insights director: “With normal weather Easter Weekend footfall is anticipated to increase due to a range of factors including the timing of national payday before Easter, the milder weather following recent periods of adverse weather, the ongoing demand for leisure-oriented trips, and the bounce back in footfall in February from December and January.

“The timing of national payday before Easter Weekend in 2018 means that households are likely to have some discretionary spending budget available that will not yet have been spent or allocated.”

Credit card debt at 12-year high

Figures from UK Finance have revealed that the annual growth rate in credit card debt is 8.3%, the highest in 12 years. The amount of credit card debt is growing at the fastest rate since the financial crisis.

There has been a rise in the use of credit cards for everyday purchases, with 3.3% year-on-year growth in February 2018.

By September, credit card companies will be obliged to take measures to help their customers out of persistent debt.

AI is no threat, says AI

Speaking in Nepal for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, humanoid robot Sophia blamed ‘fake news’ for humans’ worries about AI.

When asked if AI was a threat to human jobs, Sophia replied, “You’ve been consuming too much fake news.”

She went on to explain, “The use of Artificial Intelligence in industries is bound to grow, but humans have adapted to change across industrial revolutions. New jobs will be generated and the work I do will help you to do better work, that is less hazardous and repetitive, freeing you to do things you enjoy doing."

Nothing sinister here

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