Today voters have been taking to the polling stations up and down the country to ultimately decide whether the UK will leave or remain in the EU.
Coming a long way from its six founding countries at the end of the World War II, today the EU has 28 member countries and a population of over 500 million – that’s a lot of potential customers.
With plenty of publicity and propaganda surrounding both the ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ campaigns, retailers may have to consider both results and the implications for future trade.
According to the latest opinion polls, the British public are split evenly down the middle, but from a digital perspective people’s behaviours online could perhaps tell a different story.
Last month SimilarWeb reported Strongerin.co.uk saw over 185,000 site visits whilst VoteLeaveTakeControl.org saw double the amount with 373,000.
This statistics can be interpreted in two ways; that there is an increased interest in the ‘leave’ campaign due to the public leaning towards a Brexit vote, or the public still need clarification on their message and the benefits of the UK leaving the EU.
Hitwise have also looked into the behaviour of 3 million Brits online and found the top keyword terms relating to ‘EU Referendum’ and ‘Brexit’.
The top keyword terms in searches for ‘EU Leave’ and ‘EU Stay’.
The data underlines people’s biggest concerns direct from their search engines. Those that were searching ‘EU Referendum’ were more likely to be interested in ‘Expats’ ‘Students’ and the ‘NHS’, while those researching ‘Brexit’ were more attentive to information about ‘House Prices’ ‘Workers’ and ‘Immigration.’
‘EU Leave’ suggested people’s concerns were with immigration and ‘EU Stay’ with economic considerations.
The obvious repercussion for retailers if the UK were to exit, would be the uncertainty surrounding extra trading charges and distribution of products back into the EU. However pro-Brexit campaigners, Business for Britain, estimate that these fees would be covered by the saving made on EU membership fees.
Philip Rooke, CEO of T-shirt printing retailer, Spreadshirt, says “The EU is a huge market on the UK’s doorstep and although the British appreciate the trading opportunities, the size of the market doesn’t get enough recognition. The EU is now Britain’s largest trading partner, with over 51% of British exports of goods currently destined for its European partners. For e-retailers that is only a bit of translation and click away.”
In addition to this the UK government has promised to champion a Digital Single Market as part of its policies if we were to stay in the EU combatting some of the barriers that retailers face online. These standards would have to be upheld by retailers trading goods online across the 28 member states and could add a predicted £375 billion to the EU economy each year.
The exact impact of the result, either way, is entirely unknown, and six in ten British retailers have admitted to making no preparations for a ‘leave’ result. The coming months will be key in understanding the result and how it effects both retailers and customers.