Online retailers to see increased sales, but more work for them, says Forrester

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Online holiday sales will increase this year, but marketers will have to work harder for each buyer than last year, according to the 2009 US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, released by Forrester Research on November 2.

The research company's report, based on an online survey fielded in August of 4,723 US adults, projects an 8% growth rate for November and December US online retail sales.

However, Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru warns that penny-pinched consumers are doing more research this year for the best price (33%), using more online coupons (20%) and waiting more often for items to go on sale before buying (39%).

Economic hardship and increasing online tenure have contributed to making consumers smarter about the way they shop on the Web,” Mulpuru said in the report.

The upward trend in online sales will not apply to retailers across the board, according to Forrester. The offline catalog business is likely to underperform, as only 2% of online holiday buyers plan to use offline catalogs for their 2009 holiday purchases. Apparel and accessories will do better than other categories, such as home goods, during this holiday season.

Mulpuru predicts that retailers will have leaner inventories and offer shorter sales this year, as well as enhance their online shopping experiences to stay competitive.

“Online retailers often have greater flexibility to adjust their marketing tactics to align with emerging trends than their offline counterparts,” she explained.

Last month, the National Retail Federation predicted a 1% decline in this year's holiday retail sales.

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