Retail to Drive UK Digital Ad Spend Through 2018

Double-digit investment gains will outpace other leading industries

August 28, 2017

The UK's largest industry sector for digital ad spending—retail—will drive the country's overall digital ad spending gains through 2018, according to eMarketer's first ever forecast of cross-industry UK ad spend. But retailers won't be alone in upping digital investment.

Among the five industries in the UK tracked by eMarketer—automotive, consumer packaged goods (CPG) and consumer products, financial services, retail and travel—retail will continue to lead in share of overall digital ad spend through 2018, aided by the largest spending gains among industries both this year and next.

Thanks to the growth of ecommerce in the UK—especially in the food/grocery sector—and the resulting competition between merchants for digital shoppers, retail will account for a leading 14.2% of all digital ad spend in 2017, with investment up 13.4% to £1.55 billion ($2.09 billion).

Mobile advertising will drive the sector's digital advertising growth, with investment ballooning by 31.0% to reach £1.04 billion ($1.40 billion) this year. As a result, mobile will represent over two-thirds of retailers' digital ad outlays in 2017.

"The retail sector has a wide array of product categories, ranging from household staples such as groceries to highly popular consumer electronics and gadgets,” said Monica Peart, eMarketer's senior forecasting director. “This helps to not only push retail ad spending above other sectors, but also makes it one of the fastest growing categories with pure-play ecommerce giants such as Amazon pushing advertising investments online and on mobile, where the shopper is increasingly making purchase decisions."

The other core industries in the UK tracked by eMarketer will also increase their digital ad spending in 2017, albeit by slightly more modest levels. Automotive and CPG/consumer products will see the largest gains—11.0% each—followed by the travel and financial services sectors spending around 9% more.

Like retail, these industries will also see mobile ad spending swell by more than one-quarter in 2017, with increases ranging from 27.0% for travel to 30.0% for automotive.

While growth will occur across the board, there will be differences in where industries choose to place their digital ad investments.

"Search ad spending represents an important format for sectors that traditionally have bigger-ticket items, like autos, travel purchases and certain consumer electronics," Peart said. "Shoppers tend to spend more time looking for information ahead of their purchases in these categories, giving marketers an opportunity to reach shoppers—often through the use of keywords—in a relevant way."

For other sectors, "digital video advertising is a format making headway," Peart added. "For sectors that have typically advertised on television, like CPG, online video has become a way to invest in digital through a familiar format—one similar to TV, that is."

(For a deeper dive into eMarketer's UK industry ad spending estimates, see our August 2017 report, "UK Digital Ad Spending by Industry: Forecasts and Trends." Subscribers to eMarketer PRO can access the report here. Nonsubscribers can purchase the report here.)

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