British retailers are losing out on £3.4 billion worth of goods left in virtual shopping baskets each year, as two thirds of the contents of all virtual shopping baskets are abandoned.

Across all devices, 86% of browsers save items to online shopping baskets and wish lists but consumers switching from mobile phone browsing to laptop purchasing, a lack of discount incentives and desire for a variety of delivery options are key reasons for ‘basket abandonment’, according to the research.

More targeted investment in the strategies identified by consumers as most effective in encouraging them to complete a sale could help turn more browsers into buyers.

The findings are from the Barclays Corporate Banking Online Retail Report, From Browse to Buy: The Conversion Challenge and are based on the views of 300 senior retail managers, 2,000 UK consumers and economic modelling.

The study found that making online shopping more convenient could boost retailers’ coffers by £10.5bn within just five years.

At an uncertain time for the retail sector, the report estimates that investing in measures that encourage purchase conversion could cut basket abandonment in half by 2021.

Furthermore, instead of fiddling around with mobile sites that aren’t optimised, or wasting time searching through a difficult to navigate website, 614 million hours of time could be saved over the next five years.

There are productivity benefits too to the tune of £4.2bn, as time is freed to devote to other work or recreational activities. Ian Gilmartin, head of Retail, Barclays said: “At a time when cost management is a priority, it’s understandable that investment in mobile optimisation may seem too expensivefor many retailers.

"However, our research underlines the longer term benefit of providing easy to use options across all online platforms. By adapting quickly to the needs of today’s consumer to create a better shopping experience online, and particularly via mobile, retailers will boost their sales.

“If they get their online strategy right, we could be looking at UK retailers selling more that £80bn of stock online by 2021, but that will only happen if as an industry we respond to what the public want from us.

"This research shows that a streamlined mobile offering, flexible delivery and competitive pricing can help convert more browsers to buyers.”

The British retail sector boasts the highest proportion of online sales of any major European country. Our research found that UK residents browse online for an average of 89 minutes per week with 45-54 year olds leading the way, clocking up just over 100 minutes per week.