Forrester: Online holiday spending to jump 15% to $60B

Faith Merino · November 11, 2011 · Short URL:

Consumers are drawn by online deals and promotions, free shipping, and mobile shopping

If you haven’t started your holiday shopping yet, you need to get on the ball, man!  Target’s been peddling its Cyber Monday deals since September!  Do you want to be one of those unlucky schmucks who ends up on the news after getting trampled at Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve?  No.  So with only 45 shopping days until Christmas (and only 410 shopping days left till next Christmas!), it’s time to get things rolling.

Forrester reported Friday that online holiday retail sales are expected to grow 15% this year to reach nearly $59.5 billion, compared to $51.7 billion in 2010. Interestingly, Forrester's Sucharita Mulpuru noted that while 58% of online consumers said that they’re more price-conscious this year than they were last year, Forrester notes that 12% of the overall 15% growth will actually come from increased consumer spending.  In other words—while consumers say they’re more aware of prices this year than last year, they’ll actually be spending more.

"Despite consumer confidence falling flat and the threat of a double-dip recession, estimates regarding the 2011 online holiday retail season have been encouraging," Mulpuru notes.

Experian Hitwise has already found a nearly 18% increase in online retail traffic so far this year, so it makes sense for retailers to start beefing up their online offerings.  Of course, consumers are drawn to the usual perks: the ability to research prices, free shipping, avoiding charity volunteers who stand in front of stores and ask you for donations, but Forrester notes a couple of other interesting key players in the rise in online holiday sales this year—most notably: mobile devices and tablets.

Fully 30% of online shoppers who own a smartphone said they use their device to research a purchase at least once a month, which Forrester notes is an increase of 30% over last year.  Additionally, a striking 50% of online shoppers who own a tablet said they use their tablet to research potential purchases—which makes sense, considering the tablet browser is much more shopping-friendly  than what you typically get with a phone.

So what can retailers do to harness the rising buying power of the mobile/tablet shopper?  For starters, they can make sure that their mobile shopping channels are the best they can be—meaning they go beyond simple checkout to include ratings and reviews, as well as information on key sales and promotions.  Retailers can also beef up their tablet offerings, not only in the form of tablet apps, but by actually employing tablets for in-store shopping.  For example, Forrester notes that Sears recently began using in-store iPads to allow customers to get more product information and order out-of-stock items.

But ultimately, online shoppers are looking for deals.  The report noted that nearly 50% of online shoppers surveyed said they'd found better deals online than they did in stores, and nearly 30% said they'd used a daily deal service at some point.  So if retailers want to compete for holiday dollars this year, they need to get aggressive with promotions around key dates (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc.) and they need to make with the online deals. 

Most are familiar with Cyber Monday as the largest online shopping day of the year.  Last year, Cyber Monday saw a new record as online spending reached $1.028 billion, marking a 16% increase $887 million in 2009, and setting a record for the heaviest online spending day in history.  It is also the first time that online spending has risen above the $1 billion mark in a single day.

Some $407 million was spent online on Thanksgiving Day last year, marking a 28% increase over the previous Thanksgiving.  On Free Shipping Day, online spending reached $942 million—a 61% increase over the same day in 2009.

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