Prepare to be shocked, but online shopping is big. Really big. Alright, so that's not exactly the most surprising news of the century, but did you realise just how important it is these days? According to recent figures from Barclaycard (who should know, as they process almost half the country's credit and debit card payments) the typical household in the UK is set to spend a whopping £4,000 over the internet this year.
That works out to around £107 billion for the country as a whole – more even than it takes to get Manchester City to win the Premier League. That's lot of music singles, home-delivered groceries and random eBay tat. And what's more, almost a third of this is set to come from smartphones and tablets.
So whether it's arranging for milk and eggs to be sent straight to your home, reserving your seats for the next showing of the latest superhero-based summer blockbuster or comparing prices for that big-screen TV to watch the World Cup on, mobile shopping is taking hold in a big way. So with this in mind, we've put together our pick of five must-have apps for making your shopping easier – both online and in person.
If you want to snap up a bargain, there are few better apps to have in your pocket than HotUKDeals. This lets members of its community share the best offers and discounts in their area – with users voting on the best deals. This means you can often find something you'd otherwise have missed, or pick up an offer the stores aren't publicising. It's got over 800,000 users in the UK, so you can be sure someone will have sniffed out a bargain to share.
The biggest and still the best of the daily-deals sites, Groupon stands head and shoulders above its raft of competitors and clones, thanks to the range of offers available and the ease with which you can find them. The mobile app lets you search for deals near you in a range of categories, redeem vouchers and gift them to friends and family, all through either a smartphone or tablet.
If you want something a little bit different to the bland brand names you see on every shop shelf, Etsy could be the perfect antidote. Like a huge virtual craft fair, you can pick up almost anything you can think of hear, from hand-made jewellery to vintage fashion items – perfect for complementing your stylish NAF NAF Paris phone cover. The app lets you browse by category and its easy-to-use interface makes it simple to discover the more than 17 million unique items on offer from 800,000 sellers all over the world.
If you're standing in a shop wondering whether to risk making a purchase there and then, or waiting until you get home in the hope of finding it cheaper online, worry no more. ShopSavvy's barcode scanner lets you scan any item and bring up an instant list of comparisons. You can also set up alerts so you'll know the instant a store has a sale on covering your most-wanted goods and social elements mean you can create and share wish-lists with your friends – a useful hint if you have a birthday coming up, perhaps.
We can't end any debate over online shopping without mentioning the daddy of them all, Amazon. It's come a long way since its early days as a bookseller and now you buy pretty much anything short of enriched uranium on the site. And its mobile offering doesn't disappoint. Far from being a stripped down version of its website, as you'd find on many services, it offers access to your existing basket, any wish lists, payment and shipping options, order history, 1-Click settings and Prime membership, to make buying on the move as simple as buying from your desktop.