The internet is helping shape the future of British businesses and consumers, a new report from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and internet giant Google has concluded.
Publishing its analysis of companies' relationship with the internet, the report finds widespread enthusiasm for the expansionary prospects being online offers to many industry sectors.
It shows that 56 per cent of companies have benefited substantially from the world wide web, while 58 per cent of businesses are planning on increasing their investment in the internet.
Consumers are also benefiting as the retail impact of the internet continues to grow. An average of £230 is set to be spent online this Christmas, but the internet also has other advantages – making faceless businesses more accountable and allowing an exchange of information about which products are best.
"The internet offers business a huge opportunity," Nikesh Arora, vice-president of Google's European operations, said.
"Technology and social change give business the chance to reach customers on a previously unimaginable global scale."
Richard Lambert, director general of the CBI, agreed that the internet was "driving really substantial change among businesses" but said that companies needed to do more to fully utilise the potential offered by cyberspace.
"Businesses have already come a long way on the internet journey," he explained.
"If there were such a thing as a digital base camp they would have reached it. But their real ascent is still ahead of them, and much of the terrain is unknown."
Britain's internet sales shot up by 56 per cent in 2005, official government figures released last month showed. Meanwhile the number of online retailers rose steadily in the same period, from 12 per cent of all businesses in 2004 to 14.6 per cent in 2005.