British consumers spent a record £133 billion online in 2016, up £18 billion on the amount spent in 2015, according to data from the IMRG Capgemini eRetail sales Index.The 16% rise in sales exceeded IMRG Capgemini’s initial forecasts for an 11% rise in the twelve months leading up to December.

Last years strong performance has been partly attributed to an increase in sales made from smartphone devices. Traditionally a weak point in online sales, smartphones put in an impressive performance during 2016, with sales rising 47% in December alone.

The above par performance from mobile devices may be due to retailers making their websites more accessible to smartphones and tablets. The days of long loading times and badly laid out pages seems to be at an end, with retailers who have made changes to accommodate mobile devices reaping the biggest rewards.

Accessories and lingerie lead the way

The sectors that saw the biggest increase in online sales were accessories, up 38% and lingerie, up 33%. These were followed by gifts up 26%, and footwear, up 21%. Not all sectors saw growth however, the health and beauty sector slipped by 3% compared to 2015.

During the critical Christmas period, which runs from November 13 to December 24, sales improved by 16% compared to 2015. With shoppers spending a whopping £25 billion in the run up to Christmas, that’s £4 billion more than was spent in 2015.

In hindsight 2016 was a turbulent year for retailers, with the Brexit vote causing all sorts of challenges both large and small. These challenges look set to continue throughout 2017. But one thing is for sure, online sales and sales from mobile devices in particular look set to continue to rise in 2017.

Last years data highlights a couple of radical changes in the dynamic UK retail environment. It is clear that Black Friday is a significant event in the United Kingdom now. With Black Friday sales outstripping traditional Boxing Day sales, online at least, this trend is almost certain to continue in 2017.

Secondly, it is clear that mobile devices are very much in the present and not the future. With more and more sales being made on smartphones and tablets, it is critical that retailers ensure their websites are fully compatible with these types of devices if they are to participate in increased online spend from mobile shoppers in the future. Responsive design is no longer a buzzword, it’s a necessity.

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