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Retail Ecommerce Forecast [Webinar Recap]

This free webinar was a good opportunity to learn about retail e-commerce trends in the US and what to expect in the coming years. The speaker was Jeffrey Grau, Principal Analyst at eMarketer.

The webinar focused on the outlook for retail sales, best/worst performing categories, "mega-trends" and a profile of online shoppers. A key thing to note is that Department of Commerce (DOC) does not count online ticket sales within retail and because eMarketer uses DOC data as baseline, it does not include it either.

Looking forward, US retail ecommerce sales are expected to maintain early double digits growth till '16, rising from #224bn in '12 to $361bn. An interesting slide showed that even though total retail sales experienced a 3.5% fall in '09, retail ecommerce grew at 2.1%. A couple of reasons were cited:

  • Especially in a recession, people are used to stretching their money for the best deal
  • The internet allows for a price comparison
  • Product selection and convenience of shopping at any given time

Even though ecommerce still accounts for only ~6-7% of total sales, the amount of influence it exerts in helping make a purchase decision is a combined 45% (7% purchase+38% web influenced sales)

Which are the categories that are performing best?
With an average of 6.6% online penetration rate, PCs led the categories at 54% while groceries bottomed at 2%. Based on a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) till 2016, the fastest growing category would be Apparels and Accessories (16%) followed by Books/Music/Video (15%).

A mega-trend that is shaping ecommerce is the proliferation of devices and how the shopping experience is very different on a smartphone vs a tablet.
  • Smartphones satify immediate product needs 
  • Tablets are used in a more leisurely environment and are well suited for impulse buying
In terms of immediate product needs, 31% of US smartphone owners have used their phone to research about a product in a store while 14% purchased the same or a better product online. This behavior, called "Showrooming" diverts sales from stores to the web. In about 70% of the cases, the price was better online while 45% of people wanted to see the product in a store before ordering.

An interesting stat that was revealed during the webinar was the share of US online retail sales by income segment. Even shoppers with less than $50K/year annual income accounted for 25% of online sales during 2011.

The key takeaways from the webinar were:

  • Ecommerce has the potential to grab 15% of total sales by 2020
  • Lower prices, selection and convenience will continue to favor ecommerce
  • Impact of different devices on purchases made online
  • Personalization and Segmentation of users will provide more targeted products, increasing conversion rates

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