By David J Smith, Managing Director of IMRG

The e-retail industry is currently thriving amid a declining global economy, so it’s great to see the National Business Awards recognising the sector with its first Small and WorldPay Online Business of the Year categories.

Over the past 11 years consumers in Britain have spent an estimated total of £300bn shopping on the internet, rising from a yearly total of £0.8bn in 2000 to a forecasted £69bn by the end of 2011.

Up to 730,000 people are now working in, or in support of, the e-commerce industry in the UK, with many pure play retailers taking on new staff and e-commerce departments at multichannel retailers continuing to grow.

As the Government plans to extend the speed and geographical reach of broadband services, we anticipate a continued acceleration of growth irrespective of the economic situation elsewhere.

Within the next decade, the internet is expected to either influence or enable 90% of retail sales, while an estimated 1.5m UK staff will work within the e-commerce industry by 2015.

Dedicated e-commerce teams and staff members have never been more sought after, as retailers move towards directly generating half of their total sales revenue through the internet. The UK leads Europe in e-retail, so many of these new jobs will be well paid and right at the cutting edge of commercial innovation.

Web-enabled recovery

The growth of retail e-commerce has been enabled by the increase in the widespread reach of broadband over the past few years, with 80% of Britons now having internet access. Higher bandwidth has had a great impact on the browsing experience for consumers who can now watch videos of models on catwalks wearing the latest fashions and designs, rotate products in 3D, and use zoom to examine the texture and details of fabrics and products among other rich media benefits — all of which have made the clothes and fashion sector one of the most consistent high performance sectors on the internet.

Shifting consumer trends have also played their part. The use of internet access through portable devices is set to outstrip that through desktops within the next few years according to some estimates. Recent research carried out by IMRG and eDR found that consumers who use tablet computers are more likely to shop online, making that platform a very interesting one to watch and illustrating the profound impact that technology has upon e-commerce.

As the leaders in Europe’s e-retail economy, British retailers already account for a third of cross-border trade within the EU27. Meanwhile, domestic e-retail is currently growing at 18% year-on-year as millions of hard-pressed consumers shop online to get the most out of their pressured budgets.

A third of the UK’s adult population are yet to even begin shopping online, so the growth of e-retail is set to continue for years to come as consumers decide to take advantage of the unparalleled convenience, choice and value offered by the channel.

Finalists for the World Online Business of the Year and Small Online Business of the Year are presenting live to an esteemed panel of judges who will determine an overall winner in each category from ten of the highest scoring entrants. To find out which are crowned as the year’s most exceptional organisations and individuals, and mix with the most influential people in UK plc, book your places at the National Business Awards now. Call 0207 234 8755, email Anthony.akoto@ubm.com or visit www.nationalbusinessawards.co.uk for details.