A new report has indicated that the online retail market in the UK and Europe is set to expand over the course of 2014 as a growing number of people buy goods and services over the net.

Figures from RetailMeNot and the Centre for Retail Research found that sales are to rise by 18 per cent to £131.2 billion by the end of the year as the sector continues to mature.

The UK, France and Germany are likely to account for the majority of this development, the study revealed.

But what does this mean for businesses keen to sell their wares online? First of all, although this report is focused on consumer sales, the B2B market is likely to follow in its wake to some extent – companies are becoming increasingly happy to source goods on the web as the sector becomes more secure and established.

Secondly, as the online retail industry becomes more and more congested, firms that want to access the internet’s wide customer base need to ensure they put engaging, personalised marketing at the forefront of their approach.

Technologies such as CRM can help with this, allowing businesses to access the right kind of information to tailor their service for each specific consumer.

Giulio Montemagno, senior vice-president of RetailMeNot, argued that the ecommerce market in the UK is beginning to mature as online shopping becomes commonplace rather than an occasional event around key periods such as Christmas.

“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,” he explained.

While this maturity is a good thing in many ways and signals that the sector can compete with its bricks-and-mortar rivals, it also means firms are now dealing with more discerning customers.

Providing a positive experience is crucial if they are to return to the same site or brand.