This year roughly $507 billion in payments around the globe will be made through mobile devices, up 40% compared to 2013, according to Juniper Research.

Data show the size of average transactions conducted using tablets "are already exceeding those via desktop PCs in many markets," Juniper research director Windsor Holden said in a press release. However, despite the higher level of spending the primary function of smartphones in retail transactions still is "as search and discovery devices with the final purchase being made on the tablet."

In January Juniper reported that annual retail payments on mobile handsets and tablets are expected to reach $707 billion by 2018, representing 30% of all online purchases conducted by that time. This figure is up from $182 billion spent through mobile retail transactions in 2013 when mobile accounted for roughly 15% of online purchases.

Juniper says the scale of digital transactions is boosted by mobile ticketing applications used in Europe and North America.

Adoption of contactless mobile payments has been slow, with few commercial launches, these should get a boost from software such as Host Card Emulation, which eliminates some of the hurdles of using Near Field Communication technology for contactless payments, Juniper says.

"The prevalent business models for NFC have been unattractive to banks and left them dependent on multiple network operators, each of which may have its own approach to mobile wallet management," Holden says. Host Card Emulation-based applications "have the potential to revitalize a market which has struggled to gain traction," Holden adds.

Another Juniper report has found that the number of contactless transactions via mobile handsets will exceed 9.9 billion globally by 2018, up from just over 3 billion in 2014.

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