Despite a difficult economic environment, the e-commerce sector in Europe and the US is continuing to grow rapidly, according to research from the Centre for Retail Research and digital coupon marketplace RetailMeNot, which concluded that online sales in the US could grow by 15% in 2014 (an estimated £189.3 billion worth of sales) and by 18% in Europe (some £131.2 billion). This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

The UK, France, and Germany are projected to be responsible for the bulk of this growth in Europe, accounting for 81% of the online sales in the eight European markets expected in 2014. The UK is the largest market in Europe, with sales of £38.8 billion 2013, and is expected to account for more than a third (34%) of all online retail sales in the eight European markets surveyed in 2014.

The report forecast that £45 billion will be spent online in the UK alone in 2014 - an increase of 16% on online consumer spend compared to the previous year.

"While the e-Commerce sector is continuing to grow rapidly, we are starting to see the German, the UK and the US markets mature as shopping online becomes a commonplace activity. Today, growth is being mainly driven by an increase in the frequency of consumers shopping online and spending more money through online channels while in previous years ecommerce growth came primarily from an ever-growing number of first time online shoppers," said Giulio Montemagno, International SVP for RetailMeNot. "In 2014, we are expecting to see online sales across Europe grow at a rate that is 11.9 times faster than in-store sales. In the UK, online retail is expected to increase by 15.8% this year while the offline segment will grow by only 2.4%. With such a competitive retail environment it's more important than ever that retailers look to mobile devices and the web to incentivise shoppers to make purchases online and in-store."

The report showed that 46% of Europeans and 55% of Americans now shop online. Online shopping is particularly popular in Sweden and the UK where more than two-thirds of the population make purchases on the web; 71% of Swedes and 67% of Brits use the internet to shop. While growing, online shopping is less popular in southern Europe; one in five people shop online in Italy (20%), while one in three (32%) use the Internet to shop in Spain. Around half of people in France (52%), Poland (51%), Netherlands (49%) and Germany (45%) shop online.

The study, which included telephone interviews with 100 major retailers and 9,000 consumers, revealed that most consumers expect to shop online at least once a month in 2014. On average, European shoppers will make 15.2 online purchases during the year with a typical basket worth £49, while American shoppers will make 15.6 online purchases, with an average spend worth £71. In the UK, shoppers are expected to make an average of 18.0 purchases online during the year, spending an average of £59 each time.

Throughout 2014, European shoppers are expected to spend £749 online, an increase of 18% compared to 2013, while American shoppers are expected to spend £1,106 online, on average - 14.4% more than in 2013. In the UK, shoppers are expected to spend £1,071 on the web during 2014 (15.8% more than in 2013).

Online retailers accounted for 6.3% of all retail sales in Europe in 2013 and 10.6% in the US, and in 2014, this share is set to grow to 7.2% and 11.6%, respectively. In the UK, the research found that the internet accounted for 12.1% of all retail sales last year and this is expected to grow to 13.5% in 2014.