Precisely a fifth (20%) of Brits now spend more on items purchased online than they do in store, while for a further 18% their online/in-store spending is in perfect balance. The figures are from the latest E-Commerce Index from online marketplace Rakuten, owner of leading UK website Play.com . Its study of global shopping trends suggests global ecommerce sales are being driven by consumer demand for clothing and accessories, with two-thirds (66%) of UK consumers now buying clothes online and one in four (26%) recommending items to friends and family via social media. In the UK the top reason given for shopping online is because items are easier to find, while in all countries surveyed the top reason for shopping in-store is the ability to check items more thoroughly. Ease of payment and the ability to ask shop assistants for help is also highly valued, said researchers. The finding suggests online retailers would benefit from offering a wider selection of payment methods and giving shoppers access to ‘virtual’ assistants online, said Rakuten. Across the world the top three categories for online shoppers are clothing and accessories followed by books and magazines, and then consumer electronics. In the UK the top three categories are clothing and accessories, CDs and DVDs (including digital downloads and streaming), and books and magazines. Large appliances are least likely to be bought online, however, suggesting that consumers still like to get a feel for big ticket items in person. David Rimmer, trading director at Play.com, said: “Retailers around the world are clamouring for a piece of this $1.2tn market. Our research highlights the fashion industry is well ahead of the curve when it comes to engaging the online shopping community. That’s no small feat for an industry where the importance of “fit” would seem like a natural obstacle to online sales. However, fashion retailers have become excellent online storytellers, creating interactive and highly visual online stores in combination with social media to fuel customer conversations, setting an example which other industries would do well to follow.” Clothing and accessories are now the most commonly bought items online worldwide, with Europe leading the way. Rakuten’s data shows more than half of all shoppers buy apparel and accessories on the web, and Rakuten found Germany is the biggest market for clothing in the EU27 area, with 70% of Germans buying clothes on the web. Online clothes shopping is also seeing strong growth in the Americas. In the US, online sales of clothing and footwear are set to reach $40bn in 2013, with Rakuten’s research showing 60% of shoppers buy clothing on the web. Brazil is leading the way online in Latin America, with a third (34%) of Brazilians getting their garments online. Sales across Asia are also climbing, with 74% of shoppers in Indonesia, 60% of people in Malaysia, and 58% in Taiwan purchasing clothing online. Some $388.8bn is expected to be spent online in the Asia-Pacific region in 2013, up by nearly a quarter from last year, said Rakuten. Social and mobile shopping is adding a new facet to shopping online, according to the study. In many countries, shoppers are now routinely sharing products that they like on social sites, such as Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. Social shopping is most established in Asia, where around 55% of people recommend items on social networking sites, compared with 49% in the Americas and 29% in Europe. Indonesia is the biggest market for social shopping worldwide, with 80% of shoppers regularly recommending products on social media, while Spain (52%) is leading the trend in Europe. With mobile shopping expected to account for $119bn of all online sales globally by 2015, mobile and tablet shopping is continuing to gather momentum. Mobile is now the primary online shopping channel for 14% of people in the UK. This trend is being led by shoppers in Thailand and the US, where mobile is now the main device for shopping online for 19% of consumers in both countries.