New figures released show that for the first time, UK online sales made on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) make up the majority of all transactions, outstripping purchases made on desktop and laptop in Q4 2015/16 (November to January).

In a report released by IMRG, the UK’s Online Retail Association, statistics show that desktop and laptop sales accounted for 49% of all purchases made online in the quarter, while smartphones were responsible for 18% and tablets for 33%.

Mobile devices also account for the majority of web traffic to these sites, at 66% of all traffic to retailers in the quarter. This is an increase from 63% in the prior quarter, and from 53% year-on-year.

Tina Spooner, chief information officer of IMRG, said: “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.

“In 2014 the rate of growth via smartphones appeared to be slowing down, but in 2015 it shot up again. 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.”

Online retailers of all sizes are being advised to check the customer journey on their own store on mobile devices, to ensure that this high level of traffic isn’t being neglected and that customers are able to easily make purchases when browsing on a smartphone or tablet.

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