Observers may look back at 2016 as the year when the promise of online mobile payments turned into real momentum. In the U.K., online sales grew 16 percent from 2015 to 2016—an unexpected surge driven largely by growth in transactions originating on smartphones, according to a new report from U.K. e-commerce trade group IMRG and global consultancy Capgemini. It was the first year since 2013 that the IMRG Capgemini eRetail Sales Index registered higher growth than the year before. According to the Index, consumers in the world’s third-largest e-commerce market spent £130 billion ($162 billion) online in 2016, up £18 billion (more than $22 billion) from the year before. Smartphone use was evident in the Index’s December numbers, when growth in smartphone transactions was up 47 percent from December 2015.
“Following a below-expectation year in 2015, online sales growth has shot back up to an extent that seemed highly unlikely at the start of the year,” said Justin Opie, managing director at IMRG. “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 peoples’ 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.”