United Kingdom - Country Commercial Guide

Discusses distribution network from how products enter to final destination, including reliability of distribution systems, distribution centers, ports, etc.

Last published date: 2022-09-12

Assessment of Current Buyer Behavior in Market

Internet shopping is more popular in the UK than in any other country. Consumer eCommerce now accounts for 30% of the total retail market in the UK (up from 20% in 2020), with ecommerce annual revenue totaling over $120 billion. 82% of the UK population bought at least one product online in 2021.

The key digital figures for the UK in 2021 indicate:

  • Population: 68.05M
  • Mobile phone connections: 67.61M
  • Internet users: 65.32M
  • Active social media users: 53M

The growth of online retailing is driving a relentless pursuit of value for money. People continue to look online for the best deals and prices. This is driving the proportion of money being spent online, which has increased for the second year in a row. The internet is now the natural place for shoppers to look for fashion, health and beauty, home and garden, consumer electronics and travel services. One key trend is to physically look at or try a product in-store and then go home to buy it at a better price online or via a smartphone or tablet. Click and collect is also becoming much more popular. With the continuing rise of social networking and mobile internet access, social media marketing is a key channel in which firms are most likely to be boosting their investment in e-commerce in the next couple of years. The strength of online sales contrasts with the gloom in bricks-and-mortar retailing, with physical stores falling into administration or bankruptcy.

The biggest player in the UK eCommerce Market is amazon.co.uk. The store had a revenue of US$18.6 billion in 2021. It is followed by tesco.com with US$9.5 billion revenue and argos.co.uk with US$6.3 billion revenue. Together, the top three stores account for 30% of online revenue in the United Kingdom.

Almost all UK-based online businesses allow customers to use credit or debit cards. Visa and MasterCard are almost universally accepted, while American Express, Diners Club and JCB, less so. Many websites use Pay Pal or other similar services. UK consumers are becoming much more aware of the issue of online identity theft and will generally conduct financial transactions only on secure websites.

Ecommerce purchases made via smartphone have overtaken those made via tablets, with online sales made via smartphone representing well over 2/3 of all ecommerce sales.

Local eCommerce Sales Rules & Regulations

English law governing the conduct of business online is set out in a number of different statutory instruments:

  • The E-Commerce Regulations 2002 impose a range of obligations on the operators of commercial websites, in particular obligations to provide users with certain information about the operator and its services.
  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 covers UK consumer rights legislation, including statutory implied terms in consumer contracts and the remedies for breach available to the consumer.
  • The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 places additional obligations on website operators who deal with consumers as well as introducing cancellation rights for consumers.
  • The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 prohibits various unfair practices by traders, such as misleading actions or omissions, and include a “blacklist” of prohibited commercial practices.
  • The Provision of Services Regulations Act of 2009 requires traders to specify information available to customers and meet certain standards when handling complaints.
  • The UK GDPR contains provisions around the use of personal data, including concerning website users.
  • The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 governs direct marketing (both solicited and unsolicited) by means of electronic communication.
  • The Online Intermediation Services for Business Users Regulations 2020 imposes obligations on providers of online platforms or search engines that are used by businesses to reach consumers.
  • The UK legal system provides a high level of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection. Enforcement mechanisms are comparable to those available in the United States. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the official UK government body responsible for intellectual property rights protection including patents, designs, trademarks, and copyright.

Local eCommerce Business Service Provider Ecosystem

There are many UK companies that provide eCommerce services to create and run platforms. The sector is well served by such firms, given that the UK is a world leader in eCommerce.

The U.S. Commercial Service Business Service Provider (BSP) directory is designed to help U.S. companies identify professional service providers to assist them in the assessment, completion, and/or financing of an export transaction.

In-country Events

eCommerce Expo

Internet Retailing Expo

UK eCommerce Awards