Huw Jenkins
Posted 04 May 2016

23 Important Things Ecommerce Marketers Can Learn from Ofcom’s Media Report

Ecommerce OfcomUK adults spend an average of 21.6 hours online each week. So, what (relevant things) are they up to online?

Ofcom’s new “media literacy” report has uncovered several key findings for ecommerce marketers to dribble over.

The communications regulator surveyed 1,841 adults to investigate shifts in how people are engaging with online content and services.

We read the report – word for word – so you don’t have to. You’re busy people, we get it. You’re welcome.

Key findings:

Online shopping

  • 30% of internet users shop online weekly; this is up from 25% in 2013 and 2014 to 30% in 2015.

Laptops are the device ‘mostly’ used for buying things online; 37% of adults who have ever bought something online say they have used this device, 18% on PC (55% combined), with less than a quarter (24%) preferring a smartphone.

This data contrasts with a considerable rise in retail mobile traffic, suggesting that consumers are yet to be lured onto the buy button on their mobile devices.


  • 51% of searchers can’t spot a paid listing: over half of search engine users were unable to correctly identify adverts or sponsored links in search engine results.

Perhaps surprisingly, it was respondents from the 25-34 age group that were most likely to give an incorrect response to this question.

One in five (18%) users think that if a website is listed on a search engine results page, it must contain accurate and unbiased information.

When shown sponsored links on a search engine’s results page, one in five (23%) said they were ‘the best results/the most relevant results’; 20% said they were ‘the most popular results used by other people’.


  • 78% of users have watched a short video clip online, up from 73% in 2014.

There’s a big increase in those watching weekly, from 39% in 2014 to 48% in 2015.

This revolution is mobile, too, with video clips most commonly watched on a smartphone, particularly among younger adults.


  • Two-thirds of Facebook users say they have changed the settings of their account to make it more private, while two-thirds of Instagram users say the same.

However, over the same period, there has been no change in the extent of internet users’ willingness to enter personal details online.

Two-thirds (65%) of adults with a social media profile visit any social media site or app more than once a day, unchanged since 2014. This rises to 85% of 16-24s.


  • 16% of adults only use smartphones or tablets to go online. This marks a considerable rise, from 6% in 2014 to 16% in 2015.

Smartphones are the preferred device for five out of nine online activities, including social media, listening to streamed music, watching short video clips, looking at news websites or apps, and surfing or browsing online (however, not shopping).

The report found that there has been a considerable increase in the proportion of adults who only use devices other than a PC/laptop (e.g. smartphones and tablets) to go online, indicating that these devices are no longer just supplementing PCs/laptops, but are starting to replace them.


  • 7 in 10 adults use apps; and the majority use them on smartphones.

While seven in ten adults (70%) use any device, the majority use them on smartphones (57%), while 27% use them on tablets, and 21% on laptops or netbooks.

There is a clear preference among app users for accessing content through apps rather than browsers, unless they are making transactions or looking at news content, where browser use is more popular.

Internet usage

The majority of internet users send or receive email, use instant messaging and look at social media sites or apps at least weekly.

The most popular activities online are sending and receiving email (93%), using instant messaging (78%), looking at social media sites or apps (76%) and uploading or sharing videos or photos (70%).

Online reviews

Reading online reviews is more popular than posting online comments. While more than three-quarters of internet users (78%) ever read reviews, only four in ten (39%) have ever written them.

Browsing habits

  • 39% of established users say they only use websites or apps that they’ve used before.


Ofcom’s latest report paints a pretty picture for ecommerce marketers, with online shopping on the rise, search remaining subtle, and a marked consumer willingness to share data online.

The study sheds an interesting light on where consumers prefer to transact, with many opting for the more traditional laptop/PC over mobile devices, even in the face of increased traffic.

Some of the more interesting stats come from search, with the majority of respondents trusting the paid listings from Google implicitly, and habit, with a big chunk of respondents indicating that they only use websites or apps that they’ve used before.

Food for thought, eh?

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