By Max Clarke

Europe’s top economies have seen an 80% growth in the use of smartphones for accessing retail sites over the past year, while the UK has seen a staggering increase of 163%.

“Over the past year, online retailers enjoyed strong growth in visitation from mobile devices in Europe, largely driven by the acceleration in smartphone ownership,” said Jeremy Copp, Europe vice president for mobile at comScore, who compiled the research.

“This trend represents both an opportunity and a threat for retailers. While mobile access offers retailers incremental occasions to engage with customers, it also provides customers the ability to easily compare prices at competing retailers while inside a particular retailer’s store. Retailers must get a firm handle on mobile shopping behavior if they are to effectively navigate this changing environment.”

In addition to accessing online retail sites, say coScore, mobile consumers also accessed auction sites and shopping guides on their mobile devices. Over the three month average period ending May 2011, 6.3 percent of the Europe’s top 5 economies’ mobile users reported having accessed an online auction site and 5.1 percent also reported having accessed online shopping guides.

Across the EU5 markets, the UK had the highest penetration for the three mobile retail, or m-commerce, categories. Approximately one in ten mobile users in the UK reported having accessed auction sites. A similar percentage accessed online retail sites and 5.7 percent accessed shopping guides.

The number of mobile users accessing online retail sites grew by 118 percent over the previous year, a rate that is even more pronounced among smartphone users -up 163 percent. The UK also displayed the most growth for users accessing auction sites (up 95 percent) and users accessing shopping guides (up 71 percent).

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