Forrester: Uncertain Times Won't Deter Holiday Online Shopping

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Regardless of the state of the economy, Forrester Research said in a recent report that it thinks overall online sales will grow this holiday season.


Key factors behind this growth in e-commerce will be the pull of online shopping, the peace of mind such purchasing provides and the appearance of first-time holiday online shoppers.


"Our online holiday forecast of $11 billion, already conservative because it factored in a sluggish economy and slowed online household growth, still stands," said Forrester analyst Carrie A. Johnson in a report she co-authored with Lisa Allen.


Johnson said Forrester might change its mind because of recent events, but it stood by its projected 10 percent increase over holiday 2000. The Cambridge, MA, independent researcher's optimism is buoyed by a few factors.


One, online shopping did not stop during the period around the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Forrester cites comScore Networks data to prove this. According to comScore, shoppers spent $96 million online Sept. 11, the day of the concerted assaults.


"In comparing online sales numbers for the first 35 hours of the World Trade Center attacks with the same period the previous week, comScore tracked a 58 percent decrease in revenue -- a substantial drop, to be sure, yet shoppers turned to the Web," Johnson said in her note.


Because of these attacks, veteran online shoppers are expected to divert travel dollars to buying on the Internet. In light of this shift in spending dollars, Forrester offers a few pointers for retailers. Shopping sites must accommodate multiple ship-to addresses in a single transaction. And shipping fees and tax must be displayed before the checkout page. This will lower consumer abandonment of shopping carts.


Finally, a new crop of consumers will support online sales. Johnson said Amazon.com's one-click shopping and President Bush's endorsement of online charitable donations are likely to encourage consumers to try Internet shopping as well.


In expectation of this new batch of online shoppers, retailers must provide a simple and easy shopping experience with deft navigation, quick checkout, and clear privacy and security policies.


"We already expected gift-givers in 6 million households to start shopping online this holiday season, and the ease with which urgently needed charitable donations could be made via the Web may have supplied the impetus for holdouts to jump into e-commerce sooner," Johnson said.


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