Small businesses selling things online and using parcel delivery services could be encouraged to hear that nearly three-quarters (71 per cent) of British people now use the internet for shopping, according to figures from the European Commission (EC).
The latest Digital Agenda Scoreboard shows that the proportion has increased by four percentage points since 2010.
However, the report also indicated that there is still plenty of scope for firms to expand into the e-commerce sector, with only 14.9 per cent of businesses and 14.3 per cent of small to medium-sized enterprises selling products online in 2011.
Other statistics from the EC showed that 81 per cent of the British population used the internet at least once a week last year, which is significantly higher than the European Union average of 68 per cent.
Only 11 per cent of citizens never used the internet in 2011, marking a reduction of two percentage points from the previous year.
In January 2012, the penetration rate of fixed broadband in the UK stood at 31.7 per cent of the population, while nearly three-quarters (73.1 per cent) of fixed internet lines provided speeds of 10Mbps and above.
Commenting on the statistics, Play.com marketing director Adam Stewart said it was disappointing to see that just one in seven small businesses sell their wares online, despite the ongoing growth of internet shopping.
"The internet should be liberating Britain's smaller retailers. The web is essentially a customisable shop front, requiring minimal infrastructure costs, while attracting footfall beyond the confines of the high street," he added.
"We're living in a world where digital presence increasingly validates the physical world and all businesses need to respond or be left behind."
EU digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes said Europeans are hungry for more digital technologies and choices, but governments and industry are failing to keep up with them.
Author: Adrian Medland