Consumers shrugged off worries about identity theft and security to push online retail sales to a record £4.2bn , taking a 15% share of total retail sales, in July.
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Sales from multi-channel stores caught up to those from purely web-based outlets for the first time, said market analyst eDigitalResearch, in a report released this week.
eDigitalResearch, which has monitored online sales since December 2000, said traditional retailers such as Tesco, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer are challenging the lead set by Amazon.com and play.com.
"With online sales set to grow significantly, this is a massive commercial opportunity for pure-play and multi-channel retailers alike," said the researcher.
eDigitalResearch founder Chris Russell said both sides still had some way to go to meet customers' expectations. "It is increasingly important to leverage the growth in social networking by using Web 2.0 technologies to deliver blogs, wikis and chat rooms," he said.
Russell added that the encouraging figures hid the opportunity cost of customers who abandoned their shopping baskets at the point of payment because of security issues or frustration with the system, or on finding items out of stock.
The figures also did not show the costs of fulfilment, product returns or customer acquisition and turnover (churn).
"This surge in online activity denotes growing consumer confidence despite escalating fears of identity theft and poor online security," he said. "If organisations are to truly maximise this confidence they need to understand it is the end to end consumer experience that dictates whether they will shop at that outlet again."
eDigitalResearch has used more than 10,000 mystery shoppers over the past seven years to complete online purchases. Surveys of their experiences cover topics such as first impressions of the home page, search experience, product range, the shopping basket, ordering, delivery and returns, after sales service and overall assessment.