Industry data suggests technology is finally catching up with impulse-buying urge

It has transformed our working days and social lives alike but now, it is claimed, the mobile phone has finally conquered our wallets.

New industry data suggests that, for the first time, the majority of online shopping sales in the UK are now conducted through smartphones and tablets.

According to IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group), the trade body for internet retailers, 51 per cent of online sales between November and January in the UK involved hand-held devices rather than traditional computers or laptops.

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A year earlier the equivalent figure was just 40 per cent.

Industry experts said it marked a milestone in our changing buying habits.

They attributed the apparent surge in shopping on the go to a combination of the arrival of bigger screens on smartphones – a response to the growing use of video – and improvements by retailers themselves in making their online shopping sites easier to view on mobile devices.

It suggests that technology is finally catching up with our age-old urge to impulse buy.

According to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, which tracks trends in internet shopping, 66 per cent of visits to retail websites between November and January came through mobile devices. That compares with 53 per cent in the same period a year earlier.

But although customers are more likely to visit shops through their mobile phone than any other type of device, they are still more likely to make purchases on tablets.

Overall, according to the IMRG figures, 49 per cent of online sales came through traditional computers, whether desktops or laptops, with 51 per cent on hand-held devices. That breaks down as 33 per cent through tablet computers and 18 per cent on smartphones.

 

Tina Spooner, chief information officer at IMRG: “Smartphones have played an important role in the overall online shopping process for a long time – often used for research and comparison on the go – but over the past year they have really started to become a major component of the checkout process too and that is what is driving this leap in mobile penetration.”

She added: “The main reason for this is likely to be related to the design trend for larger screens, but many mobile retail sites have improved significantly to give a far better experience and inspire confidence in shoppers.

“There is also the fact that we increasingly use our smartphones for managing so much of our lives – it’s only logical that completing purchases on retail sites would gravitate over to these devices as well.”

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Mark Felix, online trade director at John Lewis, said: “Mobile is undoubtedly our fastest growing sales channel.

“Importantly though, mobile is becoming the glue between our shops and online.

“Increasingly, customers are using the two channels combined and for example use their mobiles to check ratings and reviews and further product information when in-store.”

But Richard Perks, director of retail research at Mintel, the consumer analysts, said he was “surprised” by the finding, which he said contrasted sharply with the group’s own research.

A Mintel study of Christmas shopping habits found that only 37 per cent of those surveyed bought all or most of their presents online.

Of those who bought presents from a mainly online retailer, 73 per cent used a laptop while 19 per cent used a tablet and 14 per cent used a smartphone.

Original article: Telegraph Tech