Mobile commerce will be worth £20 billion a year to the UK economy by 2021, according to research by Barclays Corporate.
The research predicted that British consumers will increasingly buy goods "on the go" using mobile phones and tablet devices, growing the m-commerce market from its current £1.3 billion value to £19.3 billion in 2021.
Barclays Corporate said the growth will be in part due to a lack of new retail space across the country helping to fuel the growth of the 'virtual high street'.
Richard Lowe, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays Corporate, said: "M-commerce is still a relatively niche channel accounting for 0.5% of total retail spend. However, with little new shop space coming into play the real growth opportunities lie in m-commerce."
Just more than half (52%) of consumers already use their mobiles at some stage in the shopping process and Barclays Corporate forecasts an increase on this with advances in technology such as 4G.
During the next five years mobile commerce will enjoy 55% growth, compared with 8% for online sales and 1.6% for in-store sales, while mail order is expected to shrink by 1.2%, the study, based on research from 3,000 UK consumers, found.
Food and groceries are currently the most popular mobile purchase, ringing up sales of nearly £300 million for supermarkets and grocery stores this year. By 2021 this figure is expected to top £5 billion.
Electricals are the second most popular mobile purchase with £290 million due to be purchased via a smart phone or tablet this year and expected to reach more modest growth to £2.1 billion by 2021.
Personal care, including hair care, beauty, dental and baby products will enjoy the strongest growth, with m-commerce sales rising from £63 million in 2011 to £3.1 billion in 10 years' time, Barclays said.
In early 2011, panellists at a round table event held by UKFast, discussed M-commerce as a burgeoning but largely untapped market.
Lawrence Jones, managing director of UKFast, kicked off a lively debate, asking: "How do businesses develop a mobile presence that will be effective today and also be able to withstand the pressure that will come as mobile takes over as the dominant channel to market? It's not easy."
The panellists disputed the idea that large firms are best equipped to embrace the new direction of the internet.
Jones continued: "We're seeing SMEs engaging in the opportunities presented by the mobile web. The smaller firms know that time is of the essence when it comes to an emerging market in the technology industry.
"It is those lean companies, that don't have multiple levels of management to bypass, that are ready to seize this chance. There's a risk that the larger blue chips will fall behind."
Call now on 0800 231 5914 to discuss your IT solutions with one of our consultants