UK mobile retail sales surge in Q1

New data from IMRG and Capgemini has highlighted a shift in customer buying behavior in the UK.

Latest figures from the two firms show a significant jump in the proportion of e-retail sales made using a mobile device during the first quarter of 2013.

Smartphones and tablet computers were used to complete 20.2 percent of such transactions between January and April, up from 15.4 percent in the previous three-month period.

The trend echoes that seen in the US, with Forrester research published in March highlighting smartphones and tablets as key drivers behind the growth in online retail. It expects purchases made over the internet to value $370 billion by 2017, up from $262 billion this year.

Capgemini and IMRG attribute the UK jump to increased adoption of smart devices, helped by strong sales of tablets over the Christmas period.

"Mobile is clearly a game-changer for the UK e-retail industry, with m-retail sales increasing at more than double the levels we saw in the early 2000s when IMRG started tracking online sales," chief information officer at IMRG Tina Spooner remarked, adding it is "inevitable" that mobile will replace desktop PCs as the dominant platform for online shopping as more users turn to smart devices for internet access.

Vice-president and head of retail consulting and technology at Capgemini Chris Webster believes we are "only scratching the surface" of mobile retail, predicting the capabilities of mobile devices will develop to the extent where they become "the aggregator of all digital services", replacing loyalty cards, boarding passes and tickets.

This shift presents new opportunities and problems for companies, who will have to compete to retain customer loyalty in the competitive world of online retail. Comscore cites the ease with which customers can return items they are unhappy with as a key part of the online shopping experience, noting 63 percent of respondents to a recent poll examine return and exchange policies before making a purchase over the web.