Online retail sales exceeded expectations in December, with the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index recording 18% year-on-year growth as a result of British shoppers spending £11 billion online - up from £9 billion spent in December 2012.
Key findings from the IMRG/ Capgemmini report include:
• Online retail sales up 18% year-on-year in December
• 16% growth for the online retail market in 2013
• 2013 'year of the mobile' : twice as much spent on mobile devices in December 2013 compared to December 2012
• Forecast for 2014: 17% market growth and £107 billion to be spent online
This performance caps what has been a very positive year for the Index, which recorded a total of £91 billion spent online. The Index increased 16% over the 12 months, far exceeding IMRG and Capgemini's original forecast of 12%. It is now estimated that e-retail accounts for 21% of the total retail market.
The 'year of the mobile'
Much of this success can be attributed to the growing influence of m-retail in 2013, with sales via mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) increasing 138% on 2012. As with the wider e-retail sector, a strong year for m-retail was topped by a very strong performance during December, with 27% of all online sales coming from a mobile device, equating to £3 billion. This is twice as much spent during the same time the year before.
According to the Index, 82% of mobile sales came from tablet devices. However, smartphones saw sales increase 186% in 2013, compared to an equally impressive 131% via tablet devices.
This strong performance in December was recorded across the Index and not limited to just one particular sector. Clothing and electrical goods recorded particularly solid results, with a year-on-year increase of 17% in clothing and 18% in electricals, fuelled by the popularity of new budget tablet devices, iPhone models and gaming platforms.
Click and Collect's influence on sector performance
The increase in m-commerce has been supported by the growth of services such as click/reserve and collect, which have taken a prominent role in the shopping cycle. According to the Index, purchasing/reserving online and collecting in store, now accounts for 25% of multichannel retailers' sales. Multi-channel retailers, those with both an online and high-street presence, recorded a month-on-month growth of 16% in December.
Tina Spooner, Chief Information Officer at IMRG said: "With online shopping having become part of our everyday lives, the growth levels we are seeing in the e-retail market won't be slowing down any time soon. We predict that the UK online retail market will achieve 17% year-on-year growth during 2014 and we also expect the £100 billion threshold will be broken, with a staggering £107 billion predicted to be spent online in the UK alone this year.
"Shopping has become a leisurely activity for many of us and mobile devices have fundamentally altered the way that consumers engage with brands. Often we browse on our smartphones during our morning commute and 'sofa surf' in the evenings on our tablet devices. With mobile and tablets now accounting for almost 4 in 10 visits to e-retail websites and 27% of the UK online retail market, we expect growth to continue throughout 2014 with m-retail set to account for 30% of online sales during Q1."
Chris Webster, Head of Retail and Technology, Capgemini, said: "For the first time in three years, we have seen the year-on-year rate of growth of e-retail accelerate from 14% in 2012 to 16% in 2013.
This performance has been fuelled by a variety of factors, not least the huge leaps in mobile technology, which has given a whole new section of society access to the internet and enabled the more tech savvy amongst us to shop while on the move. Combined with greater choice of delivery and collection options, as well as improved retail trading, the e-retail sector has all the ingredients for ongoing success."
Mark Lewis, Online Director at John Lewis, said: "The Christmas trading period was a strong one for John Lewis, driven by 22.6% online growth in the five weeks to the end of December. Online now accounts for around 30% of overall sales, up from 25% in 2012. Two stand-out milestones for us were the 61.8% rise in Click & Collect orders and a shift to traffic from mobile devices making up over half of traffic to johnlewis.com."
"Our customers continue to evolve how they shop, and are increasingly blending stores, online and mobile devices. With strong results from our shops as well, December 2013 was a truly omni-channel Christmas."
Sean McKee, Head of Ecommerce & Customer Services at Schuh, commented: "Online had another strong Christmas season at Schuh, with the strongest LFL performances coming from Winter boot product, and trading records set on all of the key days in the calendar. In particular, Mondays 9th, 16th and 23rd December were excellent (best one being 16th) but the standout days were Christmas Day and Boxing Day which were phenomenal. Consumption of services by customers was once again all about speed of fulfilment. At this stage, it is trite to still talk about Christmas being "mobile" but with two thirds of traffic coming from mobile devices on 25th and 26th, there is little else to describe it. As predicted, tablet has made further inroads into the traffic mix. All in all, a pleasing season in a tough environment and we are glad it is behind us!"