At John Lewis, smartphones are now the most popular way to shop online

Mobile accounted for 42% of website visits in 2018; however, people still prefer to make bigger, more considered purchases on desktop.

John Lewis Partners

Mobile has overtaken desktop and tablet for the first time as the most convenient way for customers to browse and shop the website at John Lewis.

Declaring 2018 the “year of shopping on the move”, John Lewis’s annual retail report reveals smartphones now account for 42% of visits (up 17 percentage points year on year). By comparison, desktop’s visit share is down 4 percentage points to 30%, while tablets fell by 12 points to 22%. Orders placed on desktop are down 2% and down 3% on tablet.

However, shoppers still prefer desktops for purchases, especially bigger, more considered purchases, accounting for 51% of sales made. But over a fifth (21%) of sales are now made on mobile, up from 16% a year ago.

“This was the year of shopping on the move as mobile overtook desktop and tablet as the most convenient way for people to browse and shop. Shoppers still like to make bigger, more considered purchases via desktop but it is clear that mobile is catching up in this area,” reads the report.

The figures serve to highlight why it is crucial for high street chains to invest online. John Lewis slumped to a £19.3m first-half loss, compared with a £54.4m profit in 2017. In an effort to rebuild profitability, it is planning to invest up to £500m over the next three years in product and service innovation.

The John Lewis app is also proving a popular way to shop, with visits up 45% and the number of orders placed up 56%.

80% of app users shop in-store, while 82% are members of the myJohnLewis loyalty scheme. John Lewis says these customers are 25% more likely to redeem their free tea and cake than those who use paper.

Browsing time on the app has also increased by 20 seconds per visit while the average order placed on the app has gone up by £7.

In-store sales trends continue to tell a wider story about how technology is evolving and  consumer behaviours are changing.

DVD player sales were down 40%, while desktop computer sales decreased by 15% and small TV sales by 34%. Even the traditional door knocker isn’t immune to tech, with sales down 9% as people favour ‘smart’ doorbells.

What people are buying is vegan beauty products ( with sales rising 467%), sustainable water bottles (up 37%), robotic lawnmowers (+75%), Hungarian goose mattress toppers (+292%) and thongs (+72%). Sales of inflatables also tripled, while six people paid £16,500 for a mattress.

Focus on social media

This year, John Lewis is encouraging its staff to share experiences through social media to give them more of an “authentic” and “personal” voice, as well as an opportunity to share their expertise and curate content for customers. The move comes after John Lewis rebranded to John Lewis & Partners in a bid to highlight what it sees as its key point of difference amid the strategic challenges facing high street retail.

“This new identity filters down into everything we do – from providing personal and personalised service, to offering unique products which allow customers to embrace their own individuality whilst staying true to who they are and what they stand for,” says trading director Simon Coble.

“Identity for John Lewis & Partners is all about celebrating what makes us different and helping shoppers celebrate everything that makes them unique.”

With that in mind, some 329 partners across all 50 shops have been trained on social media so far. They have posted more than 3,273 pieces of content, with 99,400 engagements and a reach of 22.3 million.

Elsewhere on social, John Lewis kept with the inflatable hype with an immersive ‘poolside’ event with inflatables and live music in two of its stores. The “Instagrammable moment” attracted 35,000 customers and generated 400,000 Instagram posts.

It also fuelled sales, including one customer who spent £1,000 on inflatables to take to his villa in the Mediterranean. Another bought two Tiki Bars (£575 each) to have them shipped abroad. The most popular item, however, was the flamingo drinks holder.

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