UK commuters shopping on their smartphones as they travel to work spend almost £23 billion a year, new research has calculated.

An individual commuter’s average spend is £89 a week, amounting to a total of £22.8 billion a year for all commuters, and accounting for 14% of all online sales, the study found. Commuters in London spend even more – an average of £120 each week.

Conducted by out-of-home (OOH) agency Kinetic, and Exterion Media in partnership with the Centre for Business and Economics Research (Cebr), the research reported that consumers’ shopping appetites varied widely, and included both products and services, ranging from clothing to insurance.

And, it also claimed, 70% of commuters said they had made purchases after being influenced by outdoor ads they saw on their journeys.

Whatever the specific influences, almost half of those quizzed (43%) said they used their phones to shop at least four times a month.

Nationally, clothes were the most popular purchase, with 76% of commuters saying they had bought them in the past year. These were followed by health and beauty (71%), activities (69%), and grocery shopping (65%).

The ubiquity of smartphones is what makes the ‘commuter economy’ possible – separate research last year suggested on-train commuter commerce was worth £2.6bn in 2017 – and the spread of free wifi will only accelerate this practice.

“Our research shows that in today’s age of time-poor consumers, the everyday commute is fast becoming a valuable opportunity to make purchases,” said Stuart Taylor, CEO of Kinetic. “At a time when footfall is declining on our high streets, these findings confirm that retailers can nevertheless reach a valuable urban audience in a physical environment.”

“Advancements in OOH technology mean that brands can serve commuters with dynamic creative based on environmental factors such as weather, location and time of day – remaining hyper-relevant even when ‘offline’ and out of store.”

The findings were based on a survey of 1,500 frequent commuters who use public transport, who own a smartphone and who travel between work or college/university at least three times a week.

Sourced from Kinetic; additional content by WARC staff