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Forrester Forecast: Online Retail Sales Will Grow To $250 Billion By 2014

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Online retail sales aren’t growing at the torrid pace they once were, but they continue to grow steadily. Forrester Research put out a new five-year forecast today predicting that e-commerce sales in the U.S. will keep growing at a 10 percent compound annual growth rate through 2014. It forecasts online retail sales in the U.S. will be nearly $250 billion, up from $155 billion in 2009. Last year, online retail sales were up 11 percent, compared to 2.5 percent for all retail sales.

In Western Europe, Forrester expects a slightly faster 11 percent growth rate for online retail sales, going from $93 billion (68 billion Euros) in 2009 to $156 billion (114.5 billion Euros) in 2014. Forrester’s estimates exclude online sales of autos, travel, and prescription drugs.

Some other stats from the U.S. forecast:

  • e-commerce sales will represent 8 percent of all retail sales in the U.S. by 2014, up from 6 percent in 2009
  • In 2009, 154 million people in the U.S. bought something online, or 67 percent of the online population (4 percent more than in 2008)
  • Three product categories (computers, apparel, and consumer electronics) represented more than 44 percent of online sales($67.6 billion)  in 2009

While $155 billion worth of consumer goods were bought online last year, a far larger portion of offline sales were influenced by online research. Forrester estimates that $917 billion worth of retail sales last year were “Web-influenced.” It also estimates that online and Web-influenced offline sales combined accounted for 42 percent of total retail sales and that percentage will grow to 53 percent by 2014, when the Web will be influencing $1.4 billion worth of in-store sales.

Yet there is a lot of room for improvement in helping consumers go from doing online research to in-store purchases. Only 61 percent of consumers who cross over from one to the other are satisfied with their buying experience, compared to 82 percent for those who end up buying online. Forrester draws the lesson that retailers need to do a better job appealing to online consumers in their physical stores. I come to a different conclusion: avoid going to real stores and buy online whenever you can. You will be happier.

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