The UK’s largest online retailers raked in £8.4bn in the 12 months up to August 2017, a significant rise of 23 per cent on the year before, new research shows.

The jump was in large part down to the increasing use of smartphones for online shopping, according to law firm RPC.

Household names such as grocery store Ocado and fashion retailer Asos were among the online businesses to have seen a spike in sales.

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It also found that traditional high streets stores have become reliant on online sales to deliver growth.

Marks & Spencer’s online sales increased by 6 per cent between April 2016 and March 2017, compared with just 1 per cent of sales from bricks-and-mortar stores.

RPC says that the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), such as chat bots and smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo, has changed the way shopping habits.

Online retailers are increasingly turning to AI to keep costs down. For example, Ocado’s distribution warehouse in Hampshire uses algorithms and machine learning to improve the speed of its deliveries.  

“As online-only sales continue to grow strongly, there’s real potential for a wave of consolidation among e-retailers,” said Karen Hendy, co-head of retail at RPC.

“Some of the larger players will be keeping an eye out for fast-growing platforms they can bolt-on, in order to rapidly grow their customer bases or to give themselves a foot in the door of new markets.”

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