Online retailers: This is how consumers shop online

According to Similar Web, British consumers visited the top ten online retailers 4.54 billion times in 2015. With eBay (1.67 billion visits) and Amazon (1.64 billion visits) dominating the British e-commerce market.

But which other online retailers were popular in 2015? How do consumers make decisions on where to buy products and how big is the impact of social networks on their purchasing decisions compared to traditional types of marketing such as newsletters and display advertising? Pepper.com, the global, social commerce group that HotUKDeals is part of, has analysed statistics from Similar Web to answer these questions. 

Full-range providers were the most popular online retailers in 2015

eBay and Amazon were the most popular online retailers in 2015. Consumers visited the auction portal eBay.co.uk 1.67 billion times followed by amazon.co.uk (1.64 billion visits). With 306.2 million visits, asos.com was a rare exception in third place in the reach ranking. Besides Amazon and eBay there were five other Internet retailers selling a wide range of products in the top ten; Argos (Rank 5 with 176.28 million visits), Tesco (Rank 6 with 144.52 million visits), John Lewis (Rank 8 with 76.34 million visits), Boots.com (Rank 9 with 69.32 million visits) and Marks and Spencer (Rank 10 with 67.54 million visits).

Besides Asos, there are only two other e-commerce players with a distinctive profile amongst the top ten: Gumtree.com, a marketplace where people buy and sell products, takes fourth place with 282.2 million visits while Sportsdirect.com claims seventh place: During the last twelve months British consumers visited sportsdirect.com 100.9 million times to buy sports clothes and equipment online. 

41% of all consumers browse directly to their preferred online retailer

The dominance of eBay and Amazon is a result of their brand-awareness: 47.7% of all consumers visiting eBay.co.uk during the last twelve months and 40.7% of all consumers visiting amazon.co.uk browsed to these sites by directly entering the specific URL. These online retailers have benefitted from their loyal customer base that counts on proven shopping habits, whilst most of the other shops have had to work harder to get traffic to their site. Less than every fourth customer (23.8%) visited the John Lewis online shop directly within the last twelve months, while Boots.com reached the lowest share of direct type-ins with 17%.

Online retailers

Every fourth consumer uses a search engine before visiting online retailers

Similar Web statistics unveil that many consumers still have a significant need for orientation when it comes to online shopping. After direct type-ins, search engines have contributed the most to the reach of the ten leading online retailers in 2015 with 24.33% of all consumers visiting an online retailer coming from search engines. Google, Bing, Yahoo, and smaller search engines have contributed 1.38 billion visits during the last twelve months – 9.1% by paid advertising and 90.9% by organic search results.

The success of JohnLewis.com (55.4%, 42.3 million visits), Tesco.com (52.1%, 75.3 million visits), and Argos.co.uk (50.7%, 89.3 million visits) highly depend on search engines. Boots.com, eBay, and Amazon are mostly independent of Google and other search engines with only 17% of all Amazon customers, 20.7% of all eBay customers, and 36.4% of all Boots.com customers using a search engine directly prior to visiting the shop.

Google has contributed the most to the traffic of the ten leading online retailers with 95.6% (1.2 billion) of all visits resulting from organic search results from Google while Yahoo (1.9%), Bing (0.84%), and Ask.com (0.12%) hold only minor shares. Looking at organic search as a source, Google’s dominance gets even clearer. The top ten online retailers were able to generate 121.4 million visits (96.2%) by paying for Google AdWords while the share of Yahoo was as little as 3.8%.

Every fifth consumer uses advisory websites, forums, and price comparison engines:

Search engines aren’t the only source consumers use to inform themselves about retailers before they buy online. Third-party websites were the third most relevant traffic-driver in 2015 after direct type-ins and search engines. The top 10 online retailers were able to generate 22.5% (1.02 billion visits) of their traffic during the last twelve months by featuring on external websites.

Independent forums, deal sharing, and news websites, along with price comparison engines had a big impact on the purchasing decisions of most consumers. HotUKDeals, the biggest social commerce platform in the UK that consumers use to share and discuss the latest deals, was by far the most important referring website contributing 149.6 million visits in 2015. Along with idealprice.co.uk (Rank 4, 13 million visits), moneysavingexpert.com (Rank 5, 10.8 million visits), kelkoo.co.uk (Rank 7, 9.7 million visits), and xxl-sale.co.uk (Rank 10, 8.4 million visits) other news websites generated a lot of traffic to retailers such as newsnow.co.uk (Rank 3, 19.2 million visits) and techradar.com (Rank 10, 8.7 million visits).

Only 3.5% of all visits came from social networks:

In 2015 social networks had a small impact on the British e-commerce market. Networks such as Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, and Twitter contributed only 3.5% (160.3 million visits) to the total reach of the top ten online retailers. There have been success stories with Similar Web showing ‘social media champions’ such as SportsDirect.com which won 21.1 million visits (20.9% of its traffic) by advertising on social media. Other retailers failed to benefit from the likes of Facebook and Twitter with only every hundredth visitor of these shops coming directly from a social network – Marks and Spencer (1.4%, 927,804 visits), John Lewis (1.5%, 1.1 million visits), Boots.com (1.5%, 1 million visits) as well as Tesco.com (1.22%, 1.8 million visits) for example. 

Among all social networks, Facebook was by far the most dominant – with a traffic share of 54.2% (81 million visits) Facebook clearly claimed the number one position. Neither Reddit (Rank 2, 17.1%, 25.5 million visits) nor YouTube (Rank 3, 15.8%, 23.6 million visits) was able to compete with Mark Zuckerberg’s network. Twitter (Rank 4, 6.4%, 9.6 million visits) and Pinterest (Rank 5, 2.2%, 3.3 million visits) scarcely influenced the market.

Newsletter marketing and display advertising have only a little relevance:

Similar Web statistics also show that online retailers were only able to attract a few consumers by advertising via newsletters and display ads. On average only 2.5% (111 million) of all visits were generated by newsletters during 2015. Only Marks and Spencer (2.6%, 1.7 million visits) and eBay (2.8%, 46 million visits) were able to generate a higher percentage of visits by advertising with newsletters while the statistic shows that mailings weren’t very relevant for many retailers such as Boots.com (0.83%, 436,852 visits), SportsDirect.com (0.89%, 694,477 visits) and Tesco.com (0.91%, 1.3 million visits).

The sum of visits the leading online retailers were able to generate by advertising with display ads was even smaller. On average less than every hundredth visitor (0.96%, 1.7 million) clicked on a display ad. There were exceptions such as Marks and Spencer and John Lewis that were able to generate 1.5% (1 million visits) and 1.4% (1.1 million visits) respectively of its traffic by running display campaigns, but others were not so lucky such as Tesco and Sportsdirect.com. During 2015 Sportsdirect.com generated 0.34% (341,300 visits) of its traffic with display ads, Tesco ended up with 679,520 visits (0.47%).

These were the ten most popular online retailers in 2015:



Visits in 2015

Visits in the first half of 2015

Visits in the second half of 2015



















































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