E-commerce sales represented 19% of Annual Business Survey (ABS) total turnover in 2011, up from 18% in 2010
Website sales represented 5.0% of total turnover in 2011, up from 4.6% in 2010
In 2011, 93% of businesses had broadband Internet and 81% had a website
5.8% of businesses had broadband with a connection of 100Mbps or more, with 34% of the largest businesses (1000 or more employees) using this high speed broadband
Over half of businesses (56%) provided at least one member of staff with a ‘portable device’, such as a portable computer, smartphone or personal digital assistant (PDA)
This release provides estimates of the values of e-commerce and the adoption and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) by UK businesses. The source of the information is the E-commerce Survey of UK Businesses. The 2011 survey selected approximately 7,700 UK businesses with 10 or more employees, in the manufacturing, distribution and parts of the service sector of the economy. Estimates of the levels of e-commerce are calculated using total turnover from the Annual Business Survey (ABS).
The E-commerce Survey of UK Businesses is conducted annually to enable the UK to meet the requirements of EU Regulation 808/2004. The survey is run in all EU member states, enabling comparisons to be made. The questions covered by the survey are updated each year, to reflect changes and developments in the use of ICT and e-commerce.
Changes were made to the measurement of e-commerce in the 2008 survey, which meant that e-commerce estimates prior to 2008 are not comparable to those since 2008 (see background note 3). Therefore, the time series for e-commerce estimates in this release start at 2008. The available time series for ICT adoption and use varies according to the survey coverage each year.
As explained in an information note (29.7 Kb Pdf) , published in October 2012, a quality improvment around the value of e-commerce sales is introduced in this release. Estimates of the values of e-commerce for 2009 and 2010 have been revised in accordance with this change.
This release compares four categories of business based on their number of employees (10 to 49; 50 to 249; 250 to 999 and 1000 or more). This release shows that the largest businesses (1000 or more employees) dominate e-commerce sales.
This release uses the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) definition of e-commerce. An e-commerce transaction is defined as “the sale or purchase of goods or services, conducted over computer networks by methods specifically designed for the purpose of receiving or placing of orders”. It is important to note, under this definition, that “the goods or services are ordered by those methods, but the payment and the ultimate delivery of the goods or services do not have to be conducted online”.
This release highlights that, in 2011, as in previous years, there was a technology gap between the largest and the smallest businesses. While this gap has been closing in areas where large businesses had previously reached near saturation; for example, in Internet access and website use, there was still a large divide in the adoption of emerging technologies such as superfast broadband.Back to table of contents
We are constantly aiming to improve this release and its associated commentary. We would welcome any feedback you might have and would be particularly interested in knowing how you make use of these data to inform your work. Please contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone David Matthews on +44 (0)1633 456756.Back to table of contents
Total e-commerce sales are estimated by aggregating sales received over a website and sales received over Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). EDI is the computer-to-computer exchange of documents in a standard electronic format. In 2011, the estimated value of e-commerce sales was £483 billion. This represented 19% of total turnover, a slight increase from the 2010 estimate of 18%.
The largest businesses (with 1000 or more employees) continued to dominate with regard to e-commerce sales. While there are comparatively few businesses with over 1000 employees in the UK, in 2011, these businesses made up almost half (46%) of all e-commerce sales.
In 2008, total e-commerce sales were valued at £335bn. In 2011 this had reached £483 billion, an increase of £148 billion, based on current prices. The average yearly growth in e-commerce sales since 2008 was 13% over the period 2008 to 2011, with total growth since 2008 of 44%.Back to table of contents
The wholesale and manufacturing sectors reported the highest levels of e-commerce sales in 2011, of £181 billion and £149 billion respectively. All industry sectors reported increasing levels of e-commerce sales compared to 2010 and also to 2008.
The construction and accommodation and food services sectors both reported comparatively low e-commerce sales. However, e-commerce sales in these sectors have more than doubled since 2008; the construction sector increasing from £2.2 billion in 2008 to £5.1 billion in 2011, and the accommodation and food services sector reporting sales of £6.3 billion, up from £3.0 billion in 2008.
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A comparable survey is run in all countries of the European Union (EU) and also in some non-EU countries. Eurostat plays a key role in this and each year leads a review of data requirements. Comparative data for EU countries can be found on the Eurostat website.
Results published by Eurostat in relation to the 2010 survey showed the UK to be near the top of the EU table for the proportion of sales derived from e-commerce.
In 2010, the UK reported 18% of total turnover derived from e-commerce. This placed the UK in joint fifth position, with Norway, as demonstrated in Figure 4. The Czech Republic reported the highest proportion of e-commerce sales as a percentage of turnover, at 25%, and Greece the lowest, at 4%.
In July 2011 ONS published a summary of how the UK results compares with the rest of the EU (38.8 Kb Pdf) .Back to table of contents
Sales over a website have seen steady growth in recent years, both in terms of the proportions of businesses using websites for sales, and with respect to the value of website sales. In 2008, 13% of businesses sold over a website, to a value of £92 billion. In 2011, 17% of businesses sold over a website, with sales of £129 billion.
The value of website sales as a proportion of total turnover increased in 2011 to 5.0%, up from 4.6% in 2010. Of this 5.0%, more than half of website sales were made by the largest businesses (with 1000 or more employees), at 2.7%. The smallest businesses (with 10 to 49 employees) contributed just 0.5% of the value of total turnover that was derived from website sales.
In 2011, while 81% of businesses had a website, only 17% of businesses sold over a website. There was a correlation between the size of a business and website use. Of the smallest businesses, 79% had a website. However, these businesses were less likely to use their website for sales, at 15%. In contrast, a far larger proportion of the largest businesses had a website, at 99%, with just under half (46%) using it for online sales.
Figure 5 shows that the growth in sales over a website in 2011 was driven by the large businesses (with 1000 or more employees). Sales over a website by large businesses (with 1000 or more employees) increased by £11 billion (20%) compared with 2010, while sales over a website made by the smallest businesses (with 10 to 49 employees) increased by just £2.7 billion (27%) compared with 2010.Back to table of contents
The wholesale sector reported the highest value of website sales, at £40 billion, followed by the information and communication sector at £21 billion.
Figure 6: Total website sales, by industry sector, 2011
- A = Wholesale B = Information & communication C = Retail D = Transport & storage E = Manufacturing F = Other
As specified earlier, EDI is the computer-to-computer exchange of documents in a standard electronic format. Sales over EDI are between businesses, while website sales are sales to businesses and households. The value of EDI sales has increased by £111 billion since 2008, from £243 billion to £354 billion in 2011. EDI sales, in 2011, represented 14% of total turnover in the UK.
The growth in the value of EDI sales, since 2008, of 46%, is not reflected in the growth in the proportion of businesses using EDI, which stood at 8.4%, up from 6.4% in 2008. This indicates that there are a relatively small number of businesses who are increasingly using EDI for larger values of sales, rather than a large number of businesses adopting this technology. While twice as many businesses used websites for sales compared to EDI, the value of EDI sales was almost three times higher than website sales, at £354 billion and £129 billion respectively.
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The wholesale sector reported the largest EDI sales in 2011, at £142 billion. This was followed closely by the manufacturing sector, at £141 billion. The proportion of businesses in the accommodation and food service sector making EDI sales has more than doubled since 2008, from 2.4% to 5.9%. This was the largest relative increase in any sector over this period.
Figure 8: Total EDI sales, by industry sector, 2011
- A = Wholesale B = Manufacturing C = Transport & storage D = Information & communication E = Utilities F = Other
In 2011, the vast majority of businesses had Internet access, at 94%. While the smallest businesses (with 10 to 49 employees) had not quite reached saturation, at 93%, businesses in all other larger size bands have reported levels of Internet access above 98% since 2006.
The Internet Access Households and Individuals 2012 statistical bulletin reported in 2012 that household narrowband Internet connections (dial-up or Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN)) had almost disappeared, at just 1%. In contrast, despite seeing a decline in the use of narrowband, there were still a significant proportion of businesses who connected to the Internet this way, ranging from 15% of small businesses (with 10 to 49 employees) to 37% of large businesses (with 1000 or more employees).
While 16% of businesses still used a narrowband connection in 2011, this has almost halved since the 2007 estimate of 30%. It is important to note that some businesses, as part of their response to the survey, reported subscribing to more than one type of Internet connection. Therefore some businesses stated that they made use of both a broadband and narrowband connection.
The reduction in the use of narrowband Internet connections in 2011 has been countered by an increase in the use of ‘other fixed Internet’ broadband, up from 21% in 2010 to 28% in 2011. This is likely to have been a result of businesses requiring improved, high speed broadband.
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As broadband Internet becomes more popular, it is unsurprising that more businesses indicated in 2011 that they had faster contracted Internet speeds than in 2010. Only 7.2% of businesses reported speeds less than two Megabits per second (Mbps), down from 11% in 2010. Conversely, the proportion of businesses subscribing to broadband with a connection speed between 30Mbps and 100Mbps, increased from 5.1% in 2010 to 8.2% in 2011. Superfast broadband, above 100Mbps, was used by 5.8% of businesses in 2011, up from 4.6% in 2010.
This trend towards faster Internet connections is likely to continue in the near future as high speed fibre optic broadband is rolled out by providers offering improved speeds for businesses and households, particularly in urban areas.
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One of the biggest changes in businesses’ use of technology in recent years has been the growth in mobile Internet and portable computing.
Businesses’ use of mobile broadband using 3G increased from 36% in 2009 to 57% in 2011. For the first time, over half of the smallest businesses (with 10 to 49 employees) reported that they used 3G, at 52%. Levels of mobile broadband then increased with each larger size band, peaking with 97% for the largest businesses (with 1000 or more employees).
In 2011, over half of businesses had provided at least one member of staff with a ‘portable device’ such as a portable computer, smartphone or personal digital assistant (PDA), at 56%. Portable computers, such as laptops or tablets were provided to at least one member of staff at 45% of businesses. The most popular reason for supplying staff with either a portable computer, or portable device, was to access the business’ email system, at 54%.Back to table of contents
This release focuses on the most significant aspects of e-commerce and ICT activity. There are additional data tables on other aspects of ICT use by businesses contained in the tables associated with this release. See tables 9, 10, 15 to 19.Back to table of contents
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
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