By Max Clarke

The explosion in popularity of tablet PCs and smartphones will be a driving force in online sales during 2011 and retailers must take steps to ensure customers can navigate their websites via that medium or risk losing out on sales, says internet marketing expert Richard Wood.

Recent research shows that the online sector owes much of its growth to the success of tablet PCs and smartphones, which allow portable on the go online shopping facilities. As the Internet is becoming more and more accessible in direct correlation with the sale of Smartphones and portable PCs, Richard Wood, MD of internet marketing company Gillissa, says it is vital that websites are optimised and ready to capture and impress the incoming traffic.

All trends currently indicate that tablet PCs are set to be an important part of the future of retail, whether it be through using internet or mobile enabled sites explains Richard. Mobile and online purchasing will continue to grow at an explosive rate, and is likely to continue to leave the high street floundering. Christmas has demonstrated that the difficulty with the high street is their vulnerability to setbacks beyond human control, such as extreme weather conditions, and the plus point of online shopping is that it can be done anywhere and anytime.

Richard says that retailers must deliver both online visibility and mobile enabled online shopping facilities if they want to maximise the growing potential of sector. Consumers consistently identify bargain hunting as a key benefit to shopping online demonstrating that price comparison is a key factor. Mobile internet and tablet computers also allow price comparison whilst in stores, demonstrating that the internet is still used as a primary resource for bargain hunters, says Richard.

Research also reiterates that whatever online channel consumers use, a great shopping experience and a smooth transaction is vital to maintain loyalty and repeat spends. A recent survey revealed that over Christmas, problems experienced whilst shopping online caused a third of those asked to abandon their purchase altogether, something Richard says is worrying proof that getting the online experience right should be a top priority in 2011.

It is clear that businesses can no longer afford to ignore the potential of online and mobile shopping. Likewise, as consumers become more tech savvy, websites will need to become more and more efficient, easy to navigate and accessible to all new media¹s. Smartphones and tablet PCs will continue to move into the mainstream, and online shopping will continue to permeate our lives as an everyday activity concludes Richard.