Shoppers on smartphones helped drive online sales growth for British e-retailers in December, with sales on those devices up 47%.

Online sales growth exceeded industry projects at the outset of the year in the United Kingdom in 2016, and shoppers on smartphones had a lot to do with that.

Just-released data from U.K. e-retail association Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) and consulting firm Capgemini shows U.K. shoppers spent 133.00 billion pounds ($164.57 billion USD) online last year, up 15.9% from 114.75 billion pounds last year. IMRG projects online sales will grow 14% this year.

From Nov. 13 through Christmas Eve, shoppers spent 16.0% more online, or 25.00 billion pounds ($30.94 billion), up from 21.55 billion pounds during the 2015 holiday season, according to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index. That growth was, in part, driven by more shoppers buying on their mobile devices, particularly in December. IMRG and Capgemini’s data shows shoppers spent 47% more on smartphones during the month, with the devices accounting for more than half (54%) of all sales completed on mobile devices, up from 39% last year.

“Following a below-expectation year in 2015 (the index growth rate was 10.6%), online sales growth has shot back up to an extent that seemed highly unlikely at the start of the year,” says IMRG managing director Justin Opie. “There are two key factors driving this. The first is that Black Friday became an ‘online’ event in 2015, and this seems to have had a lasting effect on people’s shopping behavior and preferences—our Index has recorded strong growth for online sales ever since that day. The second is that sales through smartphones are continuing to grow at a very strong rate, which is increasing the times and places in which people can browse and engage with online retailers.”

Data released by the British Retail Consortium-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor showed online sales growth grew by 9.5% year-over-year from October to December.


Here’s a look at how specific product categories performed online during 2016 in the U.K., according to IMRG and Capgemini:

  • Accessories: up 38% year-over-year
  • Lingerie: up 33%
  • Gifts: up 26%
  • Footwear: up 21%
  • Health and Beauty: down 3%

The IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, published since April 2000, tracks online sales defined as “transactions completed fully, including payment, via interactive channels” from any location, including in-store. More than 100 e-retailers contribute data to the index.