Britain is being touted as “Europe’s capital of ecommerce” after new research from Nielsen NetRatings showed a year-on-year increase of 3.8 million in the number of consumers visiting a web retailer before Christmas.

Over 12m Britons – around 60% of the nation’s web users – logged on to etail sites during the build-up to 25 December. That total is far higher than in the UK’s European counterparts, the closest being Germany with 10m internet shopping visitors.

“These figures represent visitors, not necessarily buyers,” cautioned Nielsen analyst Tom Ewing. “But the UK's conversion rate from browsers to buyers is also the highest in Europe so it's a safe bet that actual online spend has risen over the year.”

He added: “The figures suggest that shopping online is now an everyday part of more than half the British online population, particularly at Christmas.”

The leading etailer by number of visits was Amazon UK. However, so-called ‘clicks-and-mortar’ operators (high street names with online sales outlets) had a particularly strong year, with more appearing in the top ten than ever before.

The league table (with number of visits in parentheses) is as follows:

1. Amazon (6,718,000)
2. eBay (5,066,000)
3. Argos (2,562,374)
4. Tesco (2,186,779)
5. Kelkoo (1,894,000)
6. Comet (1,458,945)
7. John Lewis (1,237,070)
8. Currys (1,126,089)
9. Dixons (904,907)
10. Dealtime (847,648)

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff