Commuter commerce is growing rapidly in the UK, as regular rail travellers take advantage of ‘me time’ and the spread of free wifi, which opens up new opportunities for savvy brands and retailers.

According to a new study of rail travellers’ online retail behaviour by KBH On-Train Media and Retail Economics, the value of on-train commuter commerce (defined as on-train, on-device retail activity by those using the train to travel to and from work) reached £2.6bn in 2017 and is predicted to grow by 75% to reach £4.6bn by 2022.

Commuters are now more likely to be turning to smart devices than newspapers and this, along with wifi and their state of mind, is changing how they use their time during their regular journey.

When asked what motivates them to shop online on trains, the study found a mixture of factors, including having free time (26%), convenience (25%), boredom (17%), not feeling time-pressured (13%), and just enjoying browsing for products while on the train (11%).

The most popular time for on-train shopping appears to be the evening commute, between 4pm-8pm, when 33% of respondents shopped, slightly more than during the morning rush hour between 6am and 10am, when 27% were shopping.

And the numbers are significant: 51% of commuters have shopped online while they travel, the report said (a sample of 1,500 such “active online commuters formed the basis of the study), and 15% of these purchase on the train more than once a week.

“We expect on-train commuter commerce to surge significantly if broader connectivity challenges on rail are addressed as expected,” said Ian Reynolds, Managing Director, KBH On-Train Media.

“Our respondents, for example, agreed that they would shop more frequently on the train if there was better connectivity (33%). Likewise, they want to see more retailers prioritise the mobile optimisation of sites and apps to make the shopping experience more seamless.”

Rail commuters generally make up 9% of the adult population, the study added, but they contribute 11% of total spending – meaning a greater spend per capita than the average UK household.

The average value of each transaction in the study was £28.19 (or £4.87 every day they commuted). This is projected to grow by just over 12% per annum on average over the next four years.

Sourced from Retail Economics; additional content by WARC staff